One of the 800 or so folks who made the trip from Delaware County last night summed this night up perfectly.
“I should have brought a sign that said ‘Strasburg who?’” the man laughed.
The former West Delaware star’s return home couldn’t have been scripted much better than it turned out. The Beloit pitcher and Minnesota Twins prospect had a no-hitter through 7 2/3 innings, “settling” for a one-hit shutout of the Cedar Rapids Kernels, 4-0, before 4,691 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“I just went into the game looking at trying to throw strikes, get ahead in the count,” the low-key Hermsen said. “I guess this is just the way it worked out.”
There were orange-and-black West Delaware T-shirts all over the ballpark, not to mention a ton of people wearing Twins garb. Most of the sections behind the Beloit dugout on the third-base side of the stadium were filled with Hermsen family members, friends and supporters.
He received a rousing ovation when introduced before the game and as he took the mound for his first inning. There were times as his masterpiece unfolded where it was difficult to believe the Kernels were the home team.
“The community came out and were definitely supportive,” Hermsen said. “They always have been.”
The 6-foot-6 right-hander retired the first nine hitters, walking Mike Trout to begin the fourth. He set aside the next 14 Kernels, getting a great diving catch from right fielder Wang-Wei Lin to end the sixth.
His fastball wasn’t overpowering by any means (normally sitting in the high 80s) but Hermsen kept the ball low and threw tons of strikes.
“He showed no fear,” said Beloit pitching coach Gary Lucas, the former longtime major league reliever. “He attacked the zone, threw fastballs a ton, both sides of the plate against a first-place club. He was poised and composed. He could have pitched in the big leagues tonight with his location and demeanor.
“That was just so much fun to watch. I’m so happy for him.”
Hermen’s no-hit bid was ended when Justin Bass lined a clean single to right. He was given a standing ovation following the hit.
“(A no-hitter) always goes through your mind once that fifth, sixth, seventh inning comes around,” admitted Hermsen, who improved to 4-1. “I usually don’t talk to people any way in the dugout. But my teammates were like ‘You know, let’s get away from him.’ I could definitely tell.”
Hermsen tipped his cap to his admirers as he walked off the field, getting a shaving cream pie to the face from teammates. He was still in full uniform several minutes after the game, getting picture after picture taken with his family and friends.
Quite a night.
“A neat day for their guy,” said Kernels Manager Bill Mosiello, whose club had its magic number for clinching the Midwest League’s Western Division dip to one despite its third straight loss. “Just tip your hat. He only struck out three … (But) he threw a lot of strikes, did a good job. Give him a lot of credit. It was neat for him coming home.”