TRENTON – Chase Petty is no stranger to big-time moments.
Why would he be?
The Mainland Regional High School senior is committed to the University of Florida and is projected to be selected in the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft.
In fact, MLBPipeline.com’s Jonathan Mayo has the St. Louis Cardinals selecting Petty with the 18th overall pick in his latest mock draft via MLB.com.
“It’s surreal,” Petty said. “It’s something that every kid growing up playing baseball dreams of. For that dream to be becoming a reality for me, it’s surreal. I’m at a loss for words about it.”
Petty experienced arguably the biggest moment of his career thus far on Sunday night at Arm & Hammer Park. The senior delivered a two-hit, 13-strikeout complete game in a 3-2 win over Don Bosco Prep at the home of the Trenton Thunder.
Petty was also one of the Mustangs’ top offensive performers, going 2-for-3 with a sacrifice fly and an RBI in a game that only saw nine combined hits between the two teams.
Scouts were spotted in the crowd behind home plate from the Cincinnati Reds, Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays along with various media outlets. Petty was able to put on a show for those ranging from baseball’s biggest evaluators to friends, family and hometown fans.
The atmosphere was electric from the moment Petty delivered the game’s first pitch to Don Bosco Prep’s Eric Becker.
“This was by far the best setting I’ve been in,” Petty said. “It was unbelievable. Our student section was going crazy and the energy was amazing. “This is something really no one ever gets to experience. I’m very grateful. I’m at a loss for words at the amount of people around me that have had an impact on me. It’s a great feeling, honestly. Again, I could not be happier with this outcome and with everyone coming out.”
The Mustangs trailed 2-1 heading into the home frame of the seventh inning. Leadoff hitter Mark Elliot grounded out to first base and Mainland was down to its final two outs.
Suddenly things changed.
Petty singled and Brody Levin walked to put two runners on with one out.
Catcher Cole Campbell then crushed a two-run double to deep left field that was a few feet short of landing on Route 29. Campbell’s blast scored Petty and Levin, the game-winning run.
“I was coming up and I was looking (for a) fastball,” Campbell said. “1-0 (count), he threw me one high and I was hunting ‘in, in, in.’ He threw me that ball in and I just didn’t miss. I took it off the wall.”
“I was the first guy to (get to) Cole,” Petty said. “He pulled through and I couldn’t be happier for him. He’s like a brother to me. We bicker at each other cause that’s how pitchers and catchers are — that’s how brothers are. He’s my brother and I love him to death.”
Campbell was reluctant to take all the credit and immediately acknowledged Petty for his superb work on the mound.
“Chase is one of the most electric guys in the country,” Campbell said. “He did what he did and he trusted us behind him. Coming in we knew these guys were something else. We just knew if we played good baseball, we’d win.”
Shortly after, Petty was spotted in the home dugout of Arm & Hammer Park signing autographs for his fans.
“This is my last high school regular season start and it ended in the best way possible,” Petty said. “I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. I couldn’t have done any of that without them. Cole pulled through with that big hit. That was amazing. I’m speechless.”
The start of Sunday’s game wasn’t as smooth as the finish.
In the first inning, Petty walked leadoff hitter Eric Becker, before Becker advanced on a failed pickoff attempt that got away from the Mustangs’ first baseman. DBP’s Charlie Grantell then singled and drove in Becker in the following at-bat. Petty then struck out the next three batters, creating a surge in his pitch count early on.
The Florida recruit settled in and the rest was history.
“It was a little rough in the first inning,” Petty said. “Once I started feeling it, I started feeling it. I just felt like no one was going to touch me all night. They barreled a couple balls, but other than that they didn’t really do anything. I just felt like I had my best game tonight.”
Petty’s devastating slider was unhittable for Don Bosco Prep hitters and contributed heavily to his 13 strikeouts against the No. 3-ranked team in New Jersey according to NJ.com.
“I knew it was going to be my best pitch today,” Petty said. “Right from the jump, right from the bullpen it just felt so good. I mean it showed that it was. I threw it at any point in the count and I felt so comfortable throwing it. I think it was the best it’s been all year.”
The senior’s slider wasn’t always his best pitch. That was until Petty mastered the concept working with Philadelphia Phillies right-handed pitcher Mike Adams. Adams is the co-owner of the Baseball Performance Center in Pleasantville, New Jersey and previously worked with the Milwaukee Brewers as a part-time scout.
“It was really this offseason (that improved my slider),” Petty said. “I had it over the summer, but it definitely wasn’t my best pitch. It was alright. Hammering it in the bullpen and working with my pitching coach Mike Adams, who’s with the Phillies now, we just hammered it all off-season and it shows.”
Petty’s slider wasn’t the only pitch causing havoc for opposing hitters on Sunday night.
The right-handed flamethrower reached 98 miles per hour on his 103rd and final pitch of the night on Sunday — a fast ball on the lower left-hand corner of the plate that sent Don Bosco Prep’s Nick Carr walking back to the dugout.
“Right out of the hand, I knew it was a strike,” Petty said. “I didn’t want to throw a slider right there. I wanted that fastball. I kind of just stared him down because that was the energy.”
Petty savored the victory, but quickly shifted his attention to the next objective.
A state championship.
Mainland sits at 17-2 entering Tuesday’s home contest against Cape-Atlantic League rival Absegami. The Mustangs are projected to be the top seed in the South Jersey Group 3 sectional playoffs and will remain a favorite to win a NJSIAA Group 3 state title as long as Petty is around.
“I mean there’s really one goal, one thought,” Petty said. “And that’s to bring home a state championship. We’ll go game-by-game and bring it home.”