The velocity on Patrick Schuster's fastball and fate never have been greater. It's the trajectories that differ.
One consistently is whizzing horizontally through the strike zone at 90-91 mph. The other is shooting upward with G force acceleration, right to the top of big-league draft boards.
With three consecutive no-hitters in an 11-day span, Schuster, a Mitchell High senior, has positioned himself to become one of Pasco County's most coveted pro prospects. Fact is, many believe once Major League Baseball's first-year player draft rolls around June 9, the 6-foot-2 left-hander will deliver one final no-no — to the University of Florida.
"I'd love to (pitch at UF)," said Schuster, who signed with the Gators last fall. "But then again, I'd love not to."
As recently as late February, Baseball America ranked Schuster 43rd on its list of the nation's top 100 high school prospects. But that was before arguably the most dominant three-game pitching stretch in North Suncoast history.
Schuster, who ices his arm the night before each start, tossed his first complete no-hitter April 3, when he struck out 17 Land O'Lakes batters in a seven-inning, 2-1 victory. His second came five days later, when he fanned 10 River Ridge batters in a five-inning, 10-0 triumph.
Then on Monday at home, Schuster (8-0, 0.66 ERA, 48 IP, 93 strikeouts) struck out 16 Clearwater Central Catholic batters over seven no-hit innings in a 2-0 triumph. That one, according to Orlando Sentinel reporter and prep records archivist Buddy Collings, tied Florida's 24-year-old record for consecutive no-nos held by Gonzalez Tate's Ben Webb.
But River Ridge coach Jack Homko needed to see only one — the middle one — to suggest Schuster never will step foot in Gainesville.
"He's a left-hander, and as polished as he is …" said Homko, who watched former Royal Knights star T.J. Tucker get taken by the Montreal Expos with the 47th overall pick of the 1997 draft. "You know, Tucker was a right-hander throwing about 93 (mph) which is why he got drafted pretty high. This kid is going to go real high, as least that's what I hear."
While Schuster's physical upside — he's only around 170 pounds now — and velocity ooze draftability, others say it's his command that could entice a pro club to offer him six figures (or more) to bypass college. Mitchell coach Scot Wilcox said on a couple of occasions Monday night, Schuster threw his curve and slider for strikes with a full count.
"He's just really aggressive up there," said Alonso coach Landy Faedo, who saw Schuster at his worst (six IP, five walks, three hit batters) in Mitchell's 7-5 win in late March. "I think (his fastball) is in the low 90s and he's got a good slider, his breaking ball is really good. He's real aggressive with it, throws it hard."
Now, the North Suncoast, and Gator Nation, await to see how Schuster handles a pitch.
By June, some tantalizing ones will be made to him. Schuster's family has an adviser, a New Hampshire-based attorney named Jim Munsey who has represented pro baseball players since 1995. Just how much Schuster will want from a pro team to bypass UF is being discussed, he said.
"I'd love to say I had the opportunity to pitch at the University of Florida and I was able to turn it down," Schuster said after the River Ridge win. "But it's going to take a lot for me to not go to Florida. I really like the school, I really like the recruiting class that's going up there. We have a really good chance of winning a national championship."