Like most dads, Greg Super collects special baseballs for his son Brett Super during or after a Sage Hill School game. Whether it is a home run Brett hit, or a no-hitter Brett threw, Greg does whatever it takes to get his hands on the ball.
Sometimes those home run balls, like the one on Tuesday, land in a farm field in San Juan Capistrano. Brett smashed a solo homer to right field in the fifth inning against St. Margaret's in an Academy League game. In the bottom half of the inning, Greg returned to his seat with the ball, which by the stains on it looked like it ruined some strawberries.
What is interesting about these balls is that Greg cleans them up before they go behind a display case at home, where friends and family can see them. Sage Hill Coach Dominic Campeau finds it odd that Greg does this, but he understands why because Greg is a doctor.
"He wants everything sterilized," Campeau said with a laugh. "It seems like [the ball is] more authentic [when the ball is left alone]. I'm a purist when it comes to baseball."
There is nothing as pristine in baseball as a perfect game.
Two of those baseballs at the Super family home are from perfect games Brett has tossed this year and last year. There was no need for Greg to scrub the dirt off those balls because the hitters couldn't touch Brett.
Brett Super has been nearly unhittable and unbeatable since his sophomore year. Super is in his junior year and he's two wins away from matching his 9-0 record from a year ago.
The right-hander can get there before Sage Hill makes a run in the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs. Six games remain in the regular season for the Lightning, five of those in league.
Super has kept the defending league champion Lightning all alone atop of the league at 5-0, earning wins in two complete performances on the road, first during a 2-1 win against Oxford Academy last week and then during a 7-1 win against archrival St. Margaret's on Tuesday.
During those two starts in eight days, Super allowed only two runs and six hits, while striking out 14 and only walking one. He is the ace on the staff again, his 0.76 earned-run average is so far better than last year's 0.88 ERA.
Campeau said Super, whose fastball, curveball and slider are effective, is throwing better than last season. That's saying a lot when you consider that Super struck out 104 and walked 31 in 72 innings, and recorded a perfect game against Whitney and a no-hitter against Brethren Christian in league last year, when he earned All-CIF Southern Section Division 6 honors.
This year's perfect game turned out to be more impressive. The stellar effort came in a 3-0 win at Cerritos Valley Christian on March 10, resulting in Sage Hill reaching the Orange County Division final in the Newport Elks Tournament.
When the fourth inning of that semifinal game ended, Super knew he had a perfect game going. Mark Cresse, an assistant coach, made sure to remind Super before he made it back into the dugout.
"Super, don't think about the fact that you have a perfect game,'" Super said Cresse told him.
Super is not superstitious. He doesn't believe in one of baseball's unwritten rules about not being able to talk to the pitcher in the dugout when he's throwing a perfect game or no-hitter.
Not everyone on the team knew Super was closing in on perfection. Even when Super retired the side in order for the seventh and final time, 21 in all, the center fielder, Jack Pelc, catching the last out didn't know what all the big fuss was about.
"He was just kind of like, 'Why are we all running at Super?'" said Super, who threw 69 pitches, 45 for strikes and 24 for balls, while striking out five in the perfect game that only saw three balls hit in the outfield. "I was like watching him, and when I saw him make the catch, I was like, 'Yes! Attaboy, Jack!' He was like, 'Yeah.'"
Sage Hill, ranked No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division 6 poll, has been on such a roll that it makes winning look easy. The program is 17-1 overall, having won 16 straight games, a school record.
Super and freshman left-hander Ashwin Chona have won 14 of the contests during the streak. Each is 7-0 and the one-two punch is the best Campeau said he has coached during his 18 years involved in high school baseball.
Super and Chona both throw strikes and they're dominant. Super has 75 strikeouts and nine walks and Chona has 52 strikeouts and 11 walks. The two have five outings where they posted double-digit strikeouts.
Campeau said he sees a lot of Super in Chona, both work well under pressure. The difference between the two is that Super is more playful.
At one point last year, Campeau told Super to knock it off during practice.
"Brett is just a goofball," Campeau said. "He likes to mess around, and that's fine. You want guys to be like that, but there's always a time where you have to turn it on and off, and he had trouble figuring out when it was time to turn it off. Now he's two different people. Like when he's on the mound, he looks like a pit bull. Before a game, he's a clown."
This jokester has turned into a leader for the Lightning and someone Campeau believes can play on the next level. Super said he's talking to Pomona Pitzer College, an NCAA Division III program.
Another thing Campeau appreciates about Super is that he can trust him. There was a time when Super wanted to finish every game that he started, even though he was tired and didn't have his stuff late. One time as a freshman, he lost a no-hitter in the seventh at home to St. Margaret's, then the game.
These days, Super is beating the Tartans and hammering home runs on their field. The left-handed hitting Super homered at San Juan Sports Park for the second straight season. Each time dad went to retrieve the ball in the farm field located behind the right-field fence.
"He was like, 'Last year it was lettuce, so this year was a little bit easier,'" Super said. "People were like, 'Don't clean it up. Leave the mud on it.' He's like, 'No, no. I got to clean it up, got to [make it] look presentable.'"
Born: Feb. 17, 1999
Hometown: Newport Beach
Weight: 155 pounds
Coach: Dominic Campeau
Favorite food: Bacon cheeseburger
Favorite movie: "Good Will Hunting"
Favorite athletic moment: "It was the second perfect game, last out, and center fielder Jack Pelc caught the ball, and he was like, 'Wait, why is everyone celebrating?' I was like, 'Perfect game!' He was like, 'What?' He didn't know."
Week in review: Super went seven innings, striking out nine and allowing one earned run and three hits in Sage Hill's 2-1 win at Oxford Academy in Academy League play. He also went two for five in the team's two wins against Oxford Academy.