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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Unbreakable: Ferris pitcher Castle Keaton strikes out 21 batters in seven-inning complete game

Ferris pitcher Castle Keaton stands on the pitcher’s mound on his school’s field Tuesday. Keaton struck out 21 of 22 batters faced in a shutout victory against Ridgeline Friday.  (Kathy Plonka)

They say records are meant to be broken. But on Friday, Ferris pitcher Castle Keaton accomplished something that others can only hope to equal.

In the Saxons’ regulation seven-inning game against Ridgeline, Keaton struck out 21 of the 22 batters he faced, allowing just one base hit with no walks, in a 9-0 Greater Spokane League win over the Falcons.

Each out he recorded in the complete-game win came via strikeout.

“It was kind of unbelievable,” Keaton said on Monday. “I was just doing my best up there. It was fun , really fun.”

Keaton’s previous favorite baseball memory was making varsity as a ninth-grader. But a 21-strikeout game is something that will live in Ferris’ trophy case forever.

“I’m still trying to comprehend it,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

“He’s a competitor,” Ferris coach Sam Brown said. “He’s kind of quiet, but he plays really hard. He works really hard. Especially off the field in the weight room and the batting cages. He’s an extremely hard worker and you know, he’s deserving of this.”

The MLB record for strikeouts in a regulation nine-inning game is 20, held by four players – most recently by Max Scherzer, then of the Washington Nationals, on May 11, 2016.

GSL records are fuzzy, but the 21-strikeout achievement has happened at least once before – Rusty Shellhorn of Central Valley had a two-hit, 21-strikeout performance in 2008 against North Central. Shellhorn played in college at Texas Tech and spent two years in the minor leagues.

Brown admitted he was so wrapped up in the game he wasn’t even aware of what was going on until afterward.

“(Assistant) coach (Tom) Yearout told me as we were going to shake hands, ‘Hey, I think he struck out 21,’ ” Brown said. “And then I was like, ‘No, I don’t think so.’ And then I’m out cleaning up the field and our pitching coach comes up and says, ‘Have you ever seen that before?’ And then I’m like, ‘Oh, he probably did strike out 21 guys.’ So no, I had no clue.”

Keaton said he’s been close to throwing a no-hitter before, but he’s never been a part of a game like Friday’s. He realized what was happening after the fourth inning when he got the top third of Ridgeline order by strikeout for the second time.

“I was just like, ‘How am I doing this?’ ”

So, how was he doing it?

“I was just locating (my pitches). Throwing a lot of strikes. And my curveball was working pretty well,” he said.

“His breaking ball was working really well,” Brown said. “His fastball was wherever he wanted it. His tempo was great.”

Even after having the weekend to think about what he accomplished, Keaton said the experience is still a little surreal.

“I’ve gotten to talk to my parents a little about it,” he said. “My grandpa was there, so that’s pretty cool.”

“It’s nice to have a headline out here,” Brown said. “It feels good to have something that we can kind of be proud of. I got a lot of text messages from people around the baseball community saying, ‘Hey, is this legit?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah.’ It’s definitely cool.”

The only hit against Keaton was a clean single through the hole by Ridgeline junior Craig Anglesey to lead off the fifth inning.

“It was a fastball up,” Keaton said. “He just got his bat to it. It happens.

“I just went and got nine straight after that.”

Like the rest of the programs at Ridgeline, the baseball team is young, but the Falcons have put some runs up against good teams in the GSL this season. Ridgeline beat Ferris 5-4 Tuesday in the final regular-season game.

“We always talk about having to play against the standard, not against the opponent or the scoreboard,” Brown said. “You’ve got to play against the standard. You still have to be able to locate a fastball and throw your breaking ball for a strike.

“I really don’t think many teams would have had a ton of success off him on that day.”

Keaton and Brown pointed ahead to the District 8 3A tournament, which starts Saturday. Ferris is locked in as the No. 8 seed and will play at top-seeded University at 1 p.m.

“We made a goal at the beginning of the season to make a district playoff game and we’re here,” Brown said. “We’re gonna go out and give (U-Hi) our best punch.”