Redshirt junior pitcher Robbie Welhaf threw the first no-hitter in the Elon University baseball team’s Division I era Saturday afternoon, needing 100 pitches to beat Longwood University 7-0 at Latham Park.
Welhaf struck out a career-high eight in Elon’s 7-0 win over Longwood, with just a walk and a hit-by-pitch against him. Welhaf said he knew he hadn’t allowed a hit the entire time, focusing his mind away from the fact.
“You try not to think about it, but it’s always in the back of your head,” Welhaf said. “But with our defense and how things were going, you just keep on doing what you’re doing. You can’t really expect that to happen, so you just keep on going. Lucky for me, it just happened.”
It was just the third start of Welhaf’s career, as the righthander has battled injuries throughout his time at Elon. All of his struggles left head coach Mike Kennedy emotional as he watched Welhaf finish the no-no.
“[Assistant coach] Robbie [Huffstetler] and I are sitting here and I’m trying to make sure I don’t bust out in tears because you’re happy for a guy that sticks with it,” Kennedy said. “The kid’s been through a lot — Tommy John, he’s had rough outings here that have brought him down. For him to come back, work and put his time in? So excited for him.”
Welhaf was on a pitch count because it was the first appearance of the season, but Elon coach Mike Kennedy said he gave Welhaf the room to go because he stayed under the 90-pitch limit until the ninth inning, only needing 77 pitches to get through seven.
“At the end of the day, it’s an easy decision,” Kennedy said. “He was still throwing well, he didn’t looked gassed at all. He had a lot of quick innings, he didn’t have to stay out there long. Obviously, it’s a no-hitter, but there’s a lot of things that went in his favor to say, ‘We’re at 90 anyway, let’s try to let him finish it.’ That part was easy, to be quite honest with you.”
Welhaf credited catcher Hayden Platt for a lot of help behind the plate, saying he “honestly wouldn’t want anyone else catching today.” Platt said the two connected in the fall practices and have been in-sync ever since.
“Personally, one of the big things as a catcher is you want to be on that page with your pitcher,” Platt said. “From the start of the fall, me and Rob have just been in that secret, magnificent pitcher-catcher relationship that we always talk about. It couldn’t have happened to anybody better, and I’m so happy for him.”
Elon’s offense had its second big day in a row, scoring three runs in the second and a single run in each of the next four innings. But the story of the day is Welhaf, who threw the first Division I no-hitter of the 2017 season and got a double-jug Powerade bath for his performance.
The Phoenix is now 2-0 on the season and will look to sweep season-opening series with the Lancers at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow, with freshman pitcher Kyle Brnovich scheduled to start.