SPOTLIGHT: Page pitches his way into college baseball lore

PITCHER PERFECT: Grambling’s Shemar Page struck out a career-high 13 of 21 batters in a ‘pitcher perfect’ seven-inning 16-0 win over Alcorn State

By T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT, Journal Sports

GRAMBLING — Grambling State University graduate baseball player Shemar Page made a short shift west in Lincoln Parish this spring after spending the previous two seasons with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.

His intent was to showcase his ability as a dual threat player to boost his shot at pro ball. He had no idea he would be making history in the process.

A Laurel, Miss., native, Page began his college career as a standout pitcher near home at Pearl River Community College, then came to Tech, where he primarily served as a designated hitter for the Bulldogs for two seasons.

After being a role player on last spring’s dynamic Tech team and earning his bachelor’s degree in sociology last May, Page wanted to keep hitting, but also yearned to return to the mound and showcase his abilities on the bump.

Page did so, indelibly, last Friday night. He became only the 31st pitcher since 1959 in Division I college baseball to throw a perfect game as he led the Tigers to a 16-0 win over Alcorn State on Wilbert Ellis Field at R.W.E. Jones Park.

Page threw only 84 pitches in the seven-inning game, collecting a season- and career-high 13 strikeouts.

He became the first Division I player to toss a perfect game since March 17, 2019 when East Carolina’s Jake Kuchmaner did it. As a result, Page earned Southwestern Athletic Conference and several national Pitcher of the Week honors.

“To be honest, I don’t know if it’s all really hit me yet,” Page said Wednesday night. “But showing up at the field every day, my teammates are kind of reminding me about it. It’s cool to hear it, but I honestly can’t say that it’s sunk in yet. I just keep hearing more and more about it.”

“Going into my grad year at Tech and knowing that I only had one season of eligibility left, I wanted to be somewhere where I knew I would have the opportunity to showcase my talents on the offensive side and on the mound,” said Page. “After the fall quarter at Tech, I had a couple of conversations with people that I trust, and my parents. I felt it was the best fit for me at this point — to go somewhere that needed both a hitter and pitcher and a spot where I could fill those roles immediately.

“And that’s exactly what Grambling State was able to offer me.”

Getting to stay in Lincoln Parish and play against teams he already knew like Tech, Northwestern State and Louisiana-Monroe also played a part in Page’s decision. At GSU, he is working on a master’s degree in sports administration.

“It’s pretty cool,” Page said. “I still live in the same apartment with two Tech players (Adarius Myers and Kyle Hasler) that I did when going to school there. So I get to watch them play some midweek games at home and they came out and watched me play (Tuesday) against Northwestern. I still love those guys at Tech, too, and the ones that know me know that my decision was about trying to play baseball at the highest level in all phases of the game.

“I 100 percent want to play on the next level after college,” Page said. “I’m realistic about my talent and know that I wouldn’t have made it this far without sticking with it and working hard. If that’s enough to get me to the next level — great. And if it’s not, I’m having a helluva ride going out with Grambling State. That’s for sure.”

Perfection nearly didn’t happen near the end Friday. With one out, GSU catcher John Garcia dropped the ball after a strikeout, but calmly moved over, scooped it up and fired it to first base for the second out.

“I knew about the no-hitter, but I didn’t know about the perfect game,” said Page. “You never hear about perfect games. They just don’t happen. I wasn’t aware at all until we were in the huddle after the game. And that’s when I realized, ‘I guess I did do that.’ But I still don’t know if I can really wrap my mind around it all yet.”

Grambling’s interim head coach, Davin Pierre, fully realizes what the performance means for his program.

“All of us are still in awe about what happened,” Pierre said. “To have Grambling State University in the headlines and people talking about Page’s perfect game and the GSU baseball program — I’m ecstatic about it.”

Pierre also knows what Page’s performance as a DH — a .345 batting average with one home run and 19 runs batted in — means for the G-Men. Grambling swept Alcorn, winning three times by a combined score of 67-6. Ahead: a three-game home series this weekend against archrival Southern.

GSU is 18-22 overall, a solid 13-5 in the SWAC West Division. Page, one of the nation’s leaders in strikeouts, is a big reason.

“He should be up for the Golden Spikes Award,” Pierre said. “Whether he wins it or not I don’t know, but he should be one of the finalists. I believe he’s truly one of the best players in college baseball. He’s helping us on the mound. He’s helping us offensively. He’s one of the reasons why we’re ranked in the Top 10 in batting average in the country. I hope he gets the recognition he deserves.”

The living legend of GSU baseball — venerable College Baseball Hall of Fame coach Wilbert Ellis — admires the mark Page made in the record books.

“I coached some no-hitters and there have been a couple of others (for Grambling) after I retired,” Ellis said. “But a perfect game? That’s really something. That’s something remarkable and something I’ll never forget. It’s something truly special for the young man, for the Grambling baseball team and for the university itself. Truly something.

“It’s history.”

PHOTO: by T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT