General : : Professional
Friday, June 18, 2010

B.J. Hermsen Dazzles in Return to Iowa

Jim Ecker        
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – B.J. Hermsen’s grandmothers will have to bake some extra-special cookies for the big right-hander after the way he performed in Cedar Rapids Thursday night. Maybe they’ll add a few more chocolate chips, with sprinkles on top.
He and his teammates deserve them.
In a script straight from Hollywood, Hermsen returned to Iowa and pitched a one-hitter for the Beloit Snappers against the Cedar Rapids Kernels in a Class A Midwest League game before 4,691 fans at Perfect Game Field.
The crowd was swelled by more than 800 of Hermsen’s family and friends from nearby Masonville and West Delaware High School, where he starred as a multi-sport athlete before graduating in 2008, and he responded by pitching a no-hitter for 7 2/3 innings before collecting the one-hitter in a 4-0 victory.
Hermsen, 20, made it look easy with a smooth delivery and pinpoint control, and when it was over he stood in the corner of the visitor’s dugout for 25 minutes and signed autographs, posed for pictures, shook hands and got big hugs from his two cookie-baking grandmas, Inez Hermsen and Rosemary Klein, who have been supplying B.J. and his teammates with goodies all season.
 “It’s like a fairy tale or something,” he said, soaking it all in.
Hermsen, a sixth-round pick by the Minnesota Twins in 2008, got a standing ovation as he took the mound for the bottom of the first inning, and the ovations continued as he carried the no-hitter into the later innings, taming the Kernels with a sinking fastball, a few curves and changeups.
Cedar Rapids left-fielder Justin Bass, a .252 hitter, spoiled the no-hitter with a line single to right with two outs in the eighth inning. Hermsen received another ovation at that point, recognizing a valiant effort, and he got another standing ‘O’ when he retired the Kernels 1-2-3 in the ninth.
“I can’t say enough about these fans,” said Hermsen, whose home town is an easy drive from Cedar Rapids. “They made the journey down here and they were supportive the whole time. They’ve been supportive the past 5 or 10 years.”
Hermsen walked Mike Trout, the Midwest League’s leading hitter, on a 3-1 count in the fourth inning, but he retired the next three batters and stranded Trout at second base. Hermsen got the first two outs in the eighth inning before Bass lined his clean single to right.
Hermsen threw all of his pitches for strikes and was in total command.
 “He looked like he could have pitched in the big leagues tonight,” said Beloit pitching coach Gary Lucas, a former big-league hurler himself. “He trusted his fastball to both sides of the plate, he was down in the zone, he didn’t have to change speeds.
“He mixed in a couple of breaking balls and a couple of changeups once in a while, but my hat goes off to him,” said Lucas. “He just looks poised and composed out there.”
Hermsen reached back and threw his fastball in the low 90s at times, but pitched mostly in the mid-to-high 80s and kept the Kernels off-stride. He got 13 outs on ground balls and had three strikeouts. Only seven balls left the infield, and Beloit played a stellar game on defense, preserving the no-hitter and later saving the one-hitter.
“I can’t give enough credit to my defense,” he said.
His teammates celebrated the one-hitter by sneaking up from behind and giving Hermsen a shaving-crème pie to the face while he was conducting a television interview. He wiped off the pie and kept smiling.
“He just pitched a great game,” said Beloit catcher Tobias Streich. “He was on, and everything he threw was down. He was around the strike zone all night. He did a really great job, and I think he was really pumped up to pitch around his home town and the people came out to support him. It was awesome.”
Hermsen is now 4-1 for the Snappers with a 3.43 ERA in seven starts. He’s struck out 23 batters in 44 2/3 innings, with 11 walks and 41 hits.
“I think his future is very bright,” said Lucas. “The Twins have a track record of not necessarily looking for the hardest throwers, but for the strike throwers, and B.J. falls right into that pattern. If he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’s on the right track.”
Hermsen threw 108 pitches, which is high for a Class A game, but he wanted to finish what he started, especially with the big crowd here to support him.
“They all have pitch counts, but he was carving them up with 12 or 13 pitches an inning and really didn’t have any tough innings, and he was one hit and one walk away from a perfect game,” said Lucas. “Those are easy innings, so there was no doubt he had a chance to finish this game.
“The kid was on his game. I mean, you can’t do much better than that.”
Hermsen admitted he was thinking about the no-hitter as the game went along.
“It always goes through your mind once that 5th, 6th, 7th inning comes around,” he said. “You know, I usually don’t talk to people in the dugout anyway, but my teammates were kind of like, ‘You know, let’s get away from him.’”
Hermsen said pitching in Thursday’s game was one of the biggest thrills of his life, but also said there’s still a long way to go before he gets a chance to pitch for the Minnesota Twins in the major leagues.
“It’s just one of the steps along the way,” he said. “I’m hoping I can build off this and hopefully continue it.”
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