Rio's Sullivan proving hard to hit
By Mark Williams --- Rio Grande Sports Information Director
Rio Grande --- Teams may want to start monitoring the University of Rio Grande baseball pitching rotation to find out when junior Desmond Sullivan is scheduled to pitch and then make other plans. Sullivan fired his second career no-hitter on Sunday versus West Virginia Tech in a 13-0 victory in the first game of a doubleheader.
Sullivan, a native of Scarborough, Ontario, improved to 3-0 on the season with the victory. Sullivan struck out eight batters and walked only two in the five-inning run-rule game. His first no-hitter came on April 5th of last year when he blanked Notre Dame College on the road.
"Desmond was lights out," said Rio Grande head coach Brad Warnimont. "Eight strikeouts, firing a no-hitter in that first game, he threw outstanding."
"He was dialed in and made some great pitches and the pitches he did make were routine fly balls or ground balls to our infielders, he was locked in and it's a testimony to him," Warnimont said.
It seems to be almost becoming a habit for Sullivan; he also has a one-hitter this year against Emmanuel College.
There is no real secret to Sullivan's success. "I just go out there and try to treat every at-bat like an individual one, try to win every battle and come out on top," Sullivan said. "A lot of guys when you're throwing a no-hitter, guys during the game will be like ‘don't talk about it, don't think about it', nobody wants to jinx it."
Sullivan goes totally against that baseball superstition. "The way I am, I like to interact with the team and keep a fun environment," he said. "It's different as soon as I step on the rubber, I go back to work, but I mean even on the field, I'll step off and joke around with the guys, and in the dugout."
"My approach now is to try to do it every game, try to be perfect, try to get the no-hitter, try to get the shutout," Sullivan added. "Just do the best that I can and if I have that approach then I think I can achieve that goal."
Warnimont talked about what a tremendous accomplishment it is for Sullivan. "When Desmond is locked in, he's been lights out and when his slider's on and his fastball is in the upper 80's with good movement and he's got command of that, Desmond has been pretty much unhittable," Warnimont said. "Thus the no-hitter and the one-hitter and he's throwing his best baseball right now, so we're hoping leading into conference play that he'll continue to stay with that momentum and continue to have that command."
Many times after a no-hitter, a pitcher will say that he didn't feel that great warming up, but once he got on the mound it just clicked. Sullivan spoke about how he felt before he took the hill on Sunday. "You never know, sometimes you come out and you could have a really bad bullpen and then you come out (on the mound) and it's like night and day," he said. "That day I was just really in a relaxed state, I was out in the bullpen just throwing, I didn't really go all out in the bullpen, throwing about 70-80 percent and just getting ready to come out on the mound."
"Lately, I've been just kind of visualizing in between innings, trying to see myself throwing the pitches where I want to throw them," Sullivan added.
Warnimont didn't know Sullivan was going to throw a no-hitter, but he felt like his pitcher would throw a good game after conferring with pitching coach Nate Chau. "Our pitching coach, Nate Chau, was out in the pen and I asked Nate how he looked and Nate came back and said he looked great," Warnimont said. "Nate gives me a glowing recommendation that he's got his stuff, I mean he had his stuff, so he looks good in the pen and looks good on the mound, so those are two things that, along with focus and concentration go into that."
Warnimont described what he was thinking as the game developed and the no-hitter became a distinct possibility. "One of the things we wanted to do was stay aggressive with our pitch-calling, even though it was a 13-0 game, I don't want to cheat Desmond in that situation," Warnimont said. "Some of the time, you'll get complacent and you've got a 13-run lead, just pound the strike zone with fastballs and allow the hitters to hit and Des was locked in and we don't want to take that away from our pitcher."
"If he's got a no-hitter going and he's effective then we're going to continue to be aggressive with their hitters, whether they're pinch-hitters or guys coming off the bench," Warnimont added. "We're going to continue to go after them."
Both of Sullivan's no-hitters have been five inning run-rule games. He is appreciative of the run support he's been given by the RedStorm offense. "When you have an offense like that and they're doing well it's great," he said. "They won't let me go seven innings and throw a no-no, but I'll take the five-inning one no problem."
Sullivan also credits his defense. "I've got a great defense behind me as well," he said. "Funny thing is, with this year's no-hitter and last year's no-hitter, Ryan Yakura our centerfielder, in both games made a diving catch to save the play and keep the no-hitter alive."
"It's easy when you've got guys behind you and they're doing their jobs," Sullivan added.
Sullivan is 3-0 with a 3.86 earned run average on the season and opponents are batting a paltry .179 against him.
Rio Grande is currently 23-4 overall and 7-1 in Mid-South Conference play one game behind St. Catharine for the top spot.
Sullivan and the rest of his RedStorm teammates will face off with the University of Cumberlands this weekend in a four-game set in Williamsburg, KY.