By Noah Syverson, Viking Fusion Executive Director
Shelby West didn’t know what to make of the text.
A picture of the Oglethorpe University scoreboard, sent by his brother Shannon with no additional context or commentary, was covered in zeroes.
Including in the spot where Oglethorpe’s “hits” should have been listed.
Wait—Shelby’s nephew, Garrett, was pitching today for Berry against Oglethorpe. But no, there was no way.
A few minutes later, Shelby got another text. This one from his other brother, Shane, a 13-year assistant coach for the Berry baseball team.
“Question: Who was the last pitcher to throw a no-hitter for the Vikings?”
Asked a day earlier, the answer would have been Shelby himself. He tossed a no-hitter for Berry against then Shorter College in a 4-0 victory on March 10, 1999.
Now nearly 21 years later, the answer was a different West.
On February 29, Garrett threw seven no-hit innings in a 12-1 run-rule victory over conference foe Oglethorpe in Atlanta.
Perhaps it was only right that such a remarkable stroke of coincidence would occur on a date that’s only on the calendar once every four years.
An uncle and nephew, two decades apart, achieving one of baseball’s more singular feats.
Shelby and Garrett were both sophomores when they recorded their no-hitters, and both work primarily off their off-speed pitches.
However, according to just about everybody, that’s pretty much where the comparisons end.
Berry’s head coach David Beasley, who has the ball from Shelby’s no-hitter sitting in his office and has now coached all three Wests, says Garrett is more fiery, whereas Shelby was a little more laid back.
Additionally, Shelby, who went 8-1 with a 3.34 ERA for the 1999 Berry squad that won 35 games, is right-handed, while Garrett is a southpaw.
“I wish I could have been left-handed like him,” Shelby said chuckling, “but I obviously didn’t get to choose that.
Sometimes it takes until he’s faced a few batters, but Garrett, now in his second year getting starts for the Vikings, can usually tell whether he’s got his stuff or not by the time he and his fellow pitchers go through their pre-game warmup routines.
In Game Two of what would eventually be a three-game sweep of Oglethorpe, the First Presbyterian Day School product got the nod on the mound for Berry.
In the bottom of the first inning, the Stormy Petrels plated one run on two Berry errors, two walks from Garrett and a hit-by-pitch.
Not exactly a positive forecast for the way the outing was going to play out.
Growing up, Garrett knew about Uncle Shelby’s no-hitter from conversations at family gatherings. Over holidays when the West clan would get together, Garrett could always count on getting pointers about his delivery and the mental side of baseball from his two Viking alumni uncles.
“They’ve [Shelby and Shane] definitely played a part in helping me get to where I’m at today, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that,” Garrett said.
Garrett realized during the fourth inning of the Oglethorpe game that he still hadn’t given up a hit, but immediately pushed the thought away, not wanting to put pressure on himself.
He quickly retired the side in both the fifth and sixth innings to set up the climactic final frame.
In the seventh, Garrett got the first two Stormy Petrels to pop out to second baseman Derrick Newman. Then, the final batter stepped up.
“I remember releasing the ball and the kid turned on it, so I got kind of nervous,” he said. “But I looked back at [outfielder Zack] Walch and he was sitting under it, and I saw the ball go into his glove and I just broke down.”
— Berry Athletics (@BerryVikings) March 1, 2020
Beasley recalls that in the years since Shelby pulled off the feat in 1999, the team has had a few different pitchers take solo no-hitters into the later innings of games. Traditionally, Berry’s staff has liked to pitch to contact, and have collected several one-hitters during Beasley’s tenure.
Yet, no one since Shelby had been able to go the distance.
Beasley knew that Garrett’s talent would give him a chance to contribute to the team immediately. The kid had stuff, and proved it by earning All-SAA recognition as a freshman. Even more exciting, the biggest thing with Garrett going back to his profile as a recruit was his upside.
Good baseball genes and an electric arm make for a nice combination.
— David Beasley (@Bease1010) February 29, 2020
Garrett didn’t know that Uncle Shelby was the last Viking to do it until Coach Beasley told the team as much in the post-game meeting.
“It was just surreal and unbelievable, a really emotional moment for me,” Garrett said. “It almost felt like it didn’t happen, like it was a dream. It was really blurry at that point.”
Shelby texted Garrett after the game to congratulate him, and the two were able to talk on the phone a few days later.
“We’ve been going back and forth, talking about how crazy it is that the last two were in the family,” Garrett said. “It’s truly been a cool moment to share with him. 21 years later–it’s crazy how it lined up and gave us that opportunity to share this moment together.”
While he wasn’t watching the Oglethorpe game live, Shelby does tune in to Berry games when he can.
Earlier this season, he made it out to William R. Bowdoin field to take in Garrett’s last start before the Oglethorpe series.
With him was one of his former Berry teammates, who, as Shelby recalls, joked about what it would be like if Garrett was the next one to record a no-hitter.
‘Yeah, that’d be crazy,’ Shelby remembers saying.