There were three no-hitters in the Major League Baseball season of 2007. When Mark Buehrle threw his, he was mobbed by his teammates. When Justin Verlander threw his, he received a standing ovation just for walking to the mound in the ninth inning. When Clay Buchholz threw his, stoic Red Sox executives pumped their fists and hugged as if Yankee Stadium had just collapsed on Hank Steinbrenner.

But when Bill Ward (COL ’11) added his name to that vaunted list of unhittable pitchers just over two weeks ago against Radford, the reaction was a bit more muted. No fireworks. No scooping up of dirt from the Blair Field infield. Just simple congratulations from a few appreciative teammates.

“We were all happy for him,” said David Lamb (COL ’09), his catcher. “We all ran up to him, we all jumped on him, but it wasn’t a complete dog pile.”

“I think we all realized the gravity of a club baseball no-hitter was not quite the same as an MLB no-hitter,” Ward said.

There’s a word for people like Bill Ward. No, it’s not “realistic.” It’s “Level-Five.” It’s a term I learned from Jim Collins’ No. 1 bestseller “Good to Great,” which identifies the characteristics that set thriving corporations apart from the masses. The top level of leadership, Collins writes, is defined by those who “channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company.” Available at Barnes & Noble.

But crappy self-help books notwithstanding, Ward is a cut above the towering, self-promoting personas of Stanley Gault and Lee Iacocca. Yes, he suggested that I write this article about him. Yes, he saved a link to the Web site naming him National Club Baseball Association Division II pitcher of the week. But he’s simply not the type to invite his wife and kids onto the field after a milestone win, à la Roger Clemens. (And it’s not just because he’s unmarried.)

“I wasn’t sure he knew it was a no-hitter, to be honest, because you can never tell what’s going on in that kid’s head,” Lamb said.

Truth is, there was quite a bit going on. Ward has always been haunted by a memory from his high school baseball team. On his way to a no-hitter and completely unaware of it, he “looked at the guy keeping score. He sort of gave me a look. And on the next pitch, I blew it. I was very upset.”

ost pitchers will tell you that they had no idea they were even throwing a no-hitter, and Jim Collins probably has a name for them, too: liars. That no-hitter was on Ward’s mind from the very beginning.

“I told myself, `Let’s see how long I can go without giving up a hit,'” said Ward, who totaled 11 strikeouts and two walks. “Just because my fastballs were blowing them away, I wasn’t going to stop using my curveball. I wanted to make sure I pitched a smart game.”

Through five innings, and with only two remaining, Ward was happy to see that the bench, for once, was silent. But he was still somewhat nervous and maybe a little distracted, which may account for his horrid 0-for-3 performance at the plate.

“It looked like I was swinging at my own curveball,” Ward said.

And he was more than concerned when, in the final half inning, third baseman Dave Finn (COL ’11) booted a grounder, prompting someone in the capacity crowd of five Radford fans and a dog to shout, “Fuck your no-hitter!” (“It pumped me up a little bit,” Ward admitted.)

Indeed, when the Hoyas secured that final out to right field, the exact result was not certain. “The guys were all like, `Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!’ but I was like, `What did you guys rule that groundball?'” Ward said.

It was agreed that Finn’s boot was a consensus error, giving Georgetown club baseball, currently 7-5, its first series win and its first no-hitter since the group’s foundation in 2002.

“He just looked relieved. He looked completely relieved,” said Lamb, who claims to have been shaken off only a few times.

It also gave Ward something to pass down to his descendants.

“It’s nice to have officially thrown a no-hitter in my lifetime,” he said. “I can tell my grandkids someday that I threw a no-hitter in college. I don’t have to tell them I played club.”

No, he certainly doesn’t. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned over four years of covering sports at Georgetown, it’s that greatness can take form on any level. And on any level, it still counts.

We can only hope that, come draft day, Ward’s beloved New York Yankees feel the same way. If they don’t, well, at least he’s already got that major-league dialect down.

“I just want to thank the Lord for the opportunity to play, and I’m just grateful for the chance to get the win,” Ward said.

“He’s gonna get a beating,” Lamb added.

Alex Fumelli is a senior in the College and a former features and sports editor for THE HOYA. He can be reached at fumellithehoya.com. THE MENDOZA LINE appears every other Tuesday in HOYA SPORTS.

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