Sunday, June 17, 2018
Sports

Tampa pitcher lobs slow-pitch softball perfect game

David Gandy is only 27 years old, but he should officially retire from slow-pitch softball. It's unlikely he will duplicate what he did Thursday night.

Gandy pitched a perfect game for his city of Tampa "B" league rec team, the Sea Turtles, at Eddie Lopez Field in Seminole Heights. No hits, no walks, no errors in a 20-0, five-inning game that was shortened by the 10-run mercy rule.

That's 15 batters up, 15 down. Nobody on the Hub Rat Pack reached first base.

"You never expect that to happen," Gandy said. "It was all good defense. They hit the ball right at our guys, and everyone was making plays."

What usually happens in slow-pitch softball, where high-arching pitches await batters, is plenty of hits and runs. Shutouts are rare. No-hitters even more rare. And perfect games are once-in-a-lifetime.

And this is not one of those "D" leagues with guys who have never played before. Gandy is a former pitcher at Plant High and several of his Panthers teammates are on his softball team.

"It's a very competitive league," said Gandy, who quit his job as a civil engineer more than four years ago to become a professional poker player. "We've even lost to this team before. They are definitely a legitimate team."

Outfielder Jamie Conner, 27, is a former Plant classmate of Gandy's and has been playing softball with him on this team for three years. As each out was recorded, he couldn't believe what was going on.

"Never seen anything like that," Conner said. "We're not out there to strike people out. It's a recreational league. The whole point is to put the ball in play and run the bases and score. It's a scoring league. When you shut somebody out, that's rare. To not have anyone get on base, that's unreal. That just doesn't happen."

Joe Bendekovits has been umpiring baseball and softball games since 1956. He has been umpiring Tampa rec league softball games for 25 years. He was behind the plate Thursday night. A perfect game in slow-pitch softball was a first for him.

"I've never seen it," Bende­kovits said. "Nobody has ever seen it. They were hitting balls right at guys. And lots of popups."

In baseball, protocol is not to go near the pitcher if he has a no-hitter going. That protocol was out the window by the second inning Thursday night.

"If it's a real baseball game, it's a known thing that you don't talk to the pitcher," Conner said. "But in the second inning, we were already saying, 'Dave, you got a no-hitter going.' Then somebody said, 'Dude, you got a perfect game going.' We thought we might have jinxed it. But it wasn't until the game was over that we looked at each other and said, 'Holy cow, he actually threw a perfect game.' "

Gandy, a left-hander who said he threw a no-hitter as a sophomore at Plant, said he laughed every time a teammate brought up the no-hitter. He considered it crazy talk. But when the last out was recorded, he shook his head in disbelief.

"We celebrated a little bit, and the other team actually celebrated, too," Gandy said. "We couldn't believe it."

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