April 2, 2014 11:09:39 AM
STARKVILLE -- Maybe Hunter Mullis doesn't need any notice before he is going to pitch.
The Columbus High School senior didn't come to the ballpark Tuesday thinking he would be on the mound, but muscle tightness forced classmate Trace Lee to skip his scheduled start at Starkville High.
Columbus coach Jeffrey Cook turned to Mullis for an emergency start in a rivalry game against the Yellow Jackets and the left-hander delivered a gem, throwing six no-hit innings in a 13-0 victory in a Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A, Region 3 game.
"It's amazing that on just three days rest he goes out there without any notice and pitches the game of his life," Cook said. "As a coach, you're not sure how that will go for a kid because he just has the exact right makeup character wise to handle anything."
Mullis threw his first no-hitter in a 13-strikeout performance. Mullis had his fastball, curveball, and changeup working and had eight strikeouts looking.
"When you have all three of your pitches working perfectly, it almost feels like the ball is coming out of your hand without any feeling," Mullis said. "Everybody says the game should slow down, but when you're in the zone I swear you look around and suddenly you're in the fifth inning and think, 'Wow nobody has gotten a hit.' It's amazing."
Starkville coach Travis Garner watched his team put three runners on base by walk and tipped his cap to Mullis.
"That's as good a pitching performance as I've seen in years," Garner said. "He hit the kit with all three pitches, and we couldn't get him in any pattern tonight. It was special."
Mullis, who has a 1.15 ERA this season, earned an emergency start two weeks ago against Madison Central and pitched a one-hitter in a victory. He outdid himself against Starkville, and afterward did his normal running routine as if he didn't do anything extraordinary.
"I just wanted to go out there and give my team a chance to win," Mullis said. "I don't know if it's a gift or what, but when I'm not sure I'll pitch I tend to pitch better. I have that mind-set of always trying to get myself ready for whenever I'm called."
Mullis, who is going to Meridian Community College on a baseball scholarship, recorded seven of nine outs on strikeouts in a stretch from the second to fourth inning. Of those seven strikeouts, three were looking at his over-the-top curveball. It's a pitch that he used again to catch cleanup hitter AJ Brown looking to end the game.
"What I wanted to do was drop my curveball on them as an out-pitch, and that's exactly what happened," Mullis said. "I knew they were guessing by the second inning, so it was my job to make sure they guessed wrong."
Columbus (16-2, 3-2 region) used a seven-run fourth to take control. Senior Chris McCullough had one of his three run-scoring doubles in the frame. McCullough had three RBIs and scored two runs.
Mullis joined McCullough, Trace Lee, and Deonteau Rieves with multiple hits.
Cook hopes Lee will be ready to start Friday against Starkville (11-6, 2-3) at Columbus. If he can't, McCullough likely will get the call. However, Mullis says he can be ready in a relief effort to nail down another victory against their archrival.
"They say I have a rubber arm," Mullis said. "I don't know if that's true, but if you think I won't be ready to pitch Friday, you're crazy. That's my job as a pitcher."
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.
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