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5 March 2014

Salas reaches perfection with brother on the call

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Senior Javi Salas threw a perfect game against Villanova on Tuesday. Nick Gangemi // Assistant Photo Editor

Senior Javi Salas threw a perfect game against Villanova on Tuesday. Nick Gangemi // Assistant Photo Editor

Javi Salas returned to UM for his senior year because he wanted to reach new heights with the rest of Miami’s veteran pitching staff. He came back to make Super Regionals, to make Omaha, to make history with his teammates.

Little did he know that on that journey, he would first make the No. 1 spot on SportsCenter’s top 10 plays and make history with his little brother.

Between LeBron James’ 61 points on Monday and Javi’s performance Tuesday, the first two days of this week reminded fans that the most remarkable of accomplishments are privy to take place in the most unlikely of scenarios.

Like, say, a Tuesday night game in March against Villanova. The 2,435 fans at The Light found that out, as they witnessed Salas throw the just the 23rd perfect game in NCAA history.

“I don’t even know what to think,” Salas said. It’s ok, Javi. We don’t either.

Try to comprehend this: There are approximately 2,000 Division I baseball games each season. There have been only 23 perfect games since 1957, when the modern era of college baseball began. That’s more than 100,000 games in the past 57 years.

So if you attend a college baseball game, you have less than a .0002 chance of seeing perfection, or 1/20,000 odds.

You’re more likely to see the Cubs win a World Series, catch a foul ball or get a Republican vouch to for Obamacare.

Salas has improved as much as any Hurricane the past four years, though he came in as a highly-praised recruit. He’s bounced between the bullpen, a weekend starting role, and now his midweek spot in the rotation.

Nothing would have led one to anticipate the magical moment that unfolded Tuesday night.

When second baseman Alex Hernandez snagged a rocket of a grounder up the middle in the fifth for an out, there was a sense that something unusual was brewing.

Javi first noticed it in the sixth.

“I’m kind of a lively guy when I pitch, I like to talk to people … then I realized nobody was sitting around me, I was kind of alone,” he said. “I looked up at the scoreboard, saw zeroes across the board and was like, oh man.”

It nearly came to an end in the eighth, but freshman Sebastian Diaz caught up to a shallow floater that threatened to fall in left field. Diaz – who had just entered the ballgame the previous inning – preserved the perfecto when he made a diving grab parallel to the ground.

In what perfect game does a freshman sub in in the seventh, and quickly make a play of that proportion?

Then again, in what perfect game is the pitcher’s brother broadcasting the game? Jorge Salas, a UM freshman, was on just his second call for WVUM, and nothing may ever rival Tuesday’s experience.

Javi was not the only Salas brother to step up his performance – Jorge’s call was exceptional for a broadcasting newcomer. More than 30,000 people had listened to his call of the final out within 24 hours of the game.

“I don’t even remember what I said,” Jorge said, smiling, laughing, not sure what to think. “I was just yelling. It was a great experience.”

Perfect games always make great stories. But what happened Tuesday night resembled a tall tale, a fictional novel, a fallacy. USA Today, Deadspin, and The Huffington Post have all picked up on this story, and it might take off even more.

This was not simply a perfect game. It was two brothers that grew up right down the road, making a memory that surely will never fade from their minds, or anyone who had the fortune to be at Mark Light Field, to see a performance take place that defied the odds.

“It was one of the coolest moments of my life. The fact we got to share that moment was surreal,” Javi said.

The UM community likes to use the term “#CanesFam” when talking about the culture here. The story of the Salas brothers is truly the epitome of that sentiment.

Who knows when it’ll happen again? But, as sport so often reminds us, it’s best not to trust the odds.