Chase Jeter, a junior at West Hartford’s Hall High School, pitched a perfect game against Rockville High School on Monday, April 10.
By Ronni Newton
Hall High School head baseball coach Jeff Billing was excited about opening the 2017 season with an 8-0 victory over Rockville High School on Monday, April 10, but what he was even more excited about is something that happens very rarely in baseball – let alone high school baseball.
Chase Jeter, a junior lefty, pitched a perfect game before a home crowd on the Hall High School field, striking out 15 batters on 83 pitches.
“It’s really hard to process,” Jeter said in a phone interview Tuesday. “It’s the ultimate goal for any pitcher to have that perfect game, it’s really special to have it happen.” He said he had a hard time sleeping Monday night.
Billing said that Monday’s game was the first perfect game he has seen by a Hall pitcher in the nine years he has been at the school, and he isn’t aware of any others in the past either. It’s extremely rare in high school baseball, he said.
Jeter said that he was feeling really confident about where the game was headed after the third inning, once he had faced Rockville’s entire order once. “I had a good idea how to get them out,” he said.
Nerves hit a bit in the sixth inning, Jeter said, when the count was 3-and-1. He said he would have preferred to lose the perfect game on a walk, because it would have all been on him, but he struck the batter out on his next two pitches.
After the sixth inning, Jeter said he knew in his mind he could do it, but the prospect of a perfect game isn’t something anyone discusses.
“The nature of baseball is that you don’t talk about it while it’s happening,” Billing said. “It’s very voodoo.”
Baseball is full of superstitions, and there’s an unspoken bond shared by everyone in the dugout about not mentioning when a pitcher has a perfect game going. “You’re excited on the inside but you don’t talk about it,” Billing said. If anyone had said anything to Jeter on Monday, the coaches would have silenced them pretty quickly, he said.
Jeter retired the first five batters. In the fourth inning, when Jeter had already seen Rockville’s entire order, Billing knew it was important not to say much, just to let him stay in his zone.
“A baseball game takes about two hours. To stay perfect, to stay in that zone for two hours is amazing,” said Billing.
The plan had been to have Jeter throw 75 pitches, and Billing went into the game hoping Jeter would be able to pitch five innings. His pitch count was 72 after six innings.
“After six I called him behind the dugout and asked him how he was feeling. He said, ‘I feel fine. I have to go for it,'” Billing said.
Jeter admitted to being superstitious. He said he always warms up the same way, and will never touch the foul line during warm-up.
He doesn’t have any particular food he has to eat before a game, but said he always has a lot of protein.
Jeter also contributed offensively to the 8-0 win. As leadoff hitter, Jeter went 2-for-3, had a double, and scored two runs. He credited the rest of the lineup for hitting really well.
Billing said although Jeter is one of the team’s best hitters he put in a pinch hitter in the bottom of the sixth so Jeter could keep his focus and wouldn’t risk getting injured. The high school rules allow any starter to get replaced once and go back into the game, Billing said.
Jeter is a junior so he doesn’t yet know where he will be going to college, but Billing said he is being recruited to play baseball by Division 1 schools. Unfortunately none of the coaches were able to watch Monday’s game because April 10-13 is a “dead period” for NCAA recruiting.
According to Billing, Jeter is a powerful pitcher who throws a fastball at 82-84 mph, but what’s most remarkable is the extraordinary command he has of the fastball. “He threw about 67 strikes in 83 pitches,” Billing said.
Jeter has a curveball and change-up, but other than one curveball he pitched all fastballs on Monday, said Billing. “Everything builds off his fastball. He’s coming after hitters and attacking the zone.”
Jeter said he’s had interest from coaches of Division 1 programs in the area, as well as in Virginia and other southern schools. He said he would like to play in college.
Billing said that Jeter’s work ethic is second to none. “Chase, as good of a baseball player as he is, he’s an even better person.” He is dedicated, a joy to work with, and his teammates love him, Billing said.
Jeter feels the same way about his teammates. “I was really fortunate to do this with this group of guys. They’re really special, kids I have played with for years.” Jeter said teammate Mike Verrengia gave him a big hug after the game.
“They always have faith in me and I have faith in them,” Jeter said.
Hall is scheduled to play an away game against Manchester on Wednesday, April 12, and Billing said he’s very excited about this year’s team. Three other pitchers have the option of playing in college, he said, and there is a very balanced line-up with many veteran players.
“This was a fun start to the season,” Billing said.
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