Greely High senior Zach Johnston, a 6-foot-4 left-hander, will pitch next at Wake Forest University. He threw a five-inning no-hitter for the Rangers on April 15. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

No-hitters tend to be scarce in baseball, but this spring they’ve become a weekly occurrence at high schools in southern Maine.

Twice there have been two pitched on the same day. In all, there have been 11 no-hitters this season.

“The no-hitter is supposed to be really rare. To have that many in southern Maine, I can’t ever remember that,” said Portland High’s Mike Rutherford, who has been a varsity head coach since 1995. “With a third of the season left to go? I can definitely say I haven’t seen that.”

Coaches and players say that the increase in no-hitters this spring, while atypical, may be the result of more opportunities for young pitchers to work on their skills year-round.

“It is a bit unusual, but I think what we’re seeing, it may continue for awhile,” said Derek Soule, Greely High’s head coach since 2000.

Greely seniors Ryan Kolben and Zach Johnston have combined to throw a school-record three no-hitters this season. Kolben has two, coming in consecutive games. Soule said only twice before in his tenure has Greely had two no-hitters in a season, in 2006 and 2021.


“Maine kids now have more opportunities to throw year round than they used to. The Maine pitchers were always behind because we play up here in the Northeast. It was very limited for what kids had for options to throw in cold-weather months. Now kids have a lot of options. They aren’t necessarily throwing year round but they are training year round.”

That extra training and tutelage at private facilities like the Edge Academy in Portland and Hitter’s Count in Saco has produced several pitchers who next season will be throwing for NCAA Division I baseball programs.

Johnston, a 6-foot-4 left-hander, is headed to Wake Forest. Hard-throwing righty Cody Bowker of Thornton Academy (heading to Georgetown) and lefty Blaine Cockburn of Freeport High (University of Maine) each has thrown a no-hitter this spring, and Cockburn was part of a combined no-hitter Friday against Cape Elizabeth, though Freeport lost the game, 1-0.

Johnston’s came in Greely’s season opener on April 15, a five-inning, 11-strikeout, no-walk start against Fryeburg Academy. He did hit two batters in the 10-0 victory. High school baseball games are stopped by the 10-run mercy rule after the fifth inning.


Johnston said he’s surprised by the quantity of no-hitters but not the quality of high school pitchers in the region.


“That many (no-hitters) honestly is impressive but our senior class, we all went through together with Maine Lightning, we all went through that system together and they do a really good job of teaching you how to pitch,” Johnston said.

Thornton Academy senior Cody Bowker will play next at Georgetown University. He threw a perfect six-inning game against Sanford on April 28. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Bowker turned in a perfect six-inning game in an 11-0 win at Sanford’s Goodall Park on April 28. Bowker knew he was flirting with perfection – because a teammate didn’t respect the time-honored baseball tradition that players aren’t supposed to talk about a no-hitter until it’s completed.

“It was actually one of my friends in the dugout, around the fourth inning, he asked, ‘Has anyone gotten on base, yet?'” I was like, ‘Dude, come on. You don’t say that,” Bowker recalled with a laugh.

Bowker, who threw a one-hitter as a junior, agreed with Johnston that a pitcher’s goal never should be to throw a no-hitter. Rather it’s about helping his team win the game. A no-hitter is a reward.

“I am super glad I threw a no-hitter,” Bowker said. “I do put in a lot of hard work and me and my team put in a lot of hard work and to get those results, it just kind of shows how much time goes into success like that.”

Typically, no-hitters are more frequent in high school softball. That’s partly because the top pitchers routinely pitch every game. This season, Brooke Gerry of Windham and Charlotte Donovan of Biddeford have thrown no-hitters.



Several of the baseball no-hitters have come from pitchers who had limited high school experience entering the season.

The same day Cockburn no-hit Wells, Yarmouth junior Liam Hickey no-hit Lake Region, 15-0, in his first varsity start, striking out seven and allowing one walk over five innings.

“I think I had one varsity inning last year,” Hickey said. “I didn’t know I’d thrown a no-hitter until after the game. That wasn’t my focus. I was just worried about getting the win.

“After the last pitch I was walking back to the dugout and Coach (Marc) Halstead told me to get over there and get that ball,” Hickey said.

Hickey, a three-sport athlete who played on Yarmouth’s state champion soccer and basketball teams, does not train at an offseason baseball facility. Knowing he would have a big role this season after a large senior class graduated, he pitched last summer in the Edge Academy Wood Bat League.


“We were in with a lot of the Class A, bigger schools. We played South Portland, Falmouth, Portland,” Hickey said. “That got me prepared the most for this season, which was helpful just to get my arm strength going and to have those live at-bats against hitters who were a lot better than the JV kids I was throwing to last year.”

The wood bat league, formed in 2017, is designed as a developmental league that keeps high school teammates together. Last summer 34 teams participated, said Rutherford, a co-founder of the league with Falmouth High coach Mike D’Andrea.

Kolben has two no-hitters but he’s typically a catcher, the position he’ll pay at the University of Massachusetts after taking a gap year. He said he also used the wood bat league, in addition to winter workouts with Johnston, to prepare to be Greely’s No. 2 pitcher.

Overall, Kolben is 4-1 with a 1.00 ERA and 52 strikeouts against four walks in 28 innings. In his last two starts, Kolben no-hit quality Western Maine Conference rivals Cape Elizabeth on May 13 and Freeport on Wednesday.

Greely High senior Ryan Kolben will be a catcher at the University of Massachusetts, but he’s thrown five-inning no-hitters for the Rangers in his past two starts. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“I’m going to college to catch, but in high school, I just try to throw it as hard as I can and stay loose up there and just hope they don’t hit it,” Kolben said.

Morse junior right-hander Gavin Baillargeon has also thrown two no-hitters – a five-inning shutout against Gardiner on May 2, and a seven-inning 11-2 win against Lincoln Academy on Monday, when he walked two and Morse made three errors.



The other southern Maine pitchers to throw no-hitters this spring are Cape Elizabeth junior Curtis Sullivan (seven innings) and Westbrook senior Bronson Damon (five innings).

In summer ball, Kolben has caught many of the other no-hit pitchers.

“For the amount of guys who pitch that I know from Lightning and travel ball, it honestly doesn’t really surprise me,” Kolben said. “There are so many talented arms who can throw strikes and it’s the way the game is developing with arm care and training. I really think it’s going to continue like this for a while.”

That’s because pitchers know more about their craft, Johnston said. It’s not just about throwing hard, he said. Now the focus is on hitting spots, using breaking pitches when behind in the ball-strike count, and having a plan.

“One of biggest things the coaches say when you’re young is, ‘be a pitcher, not a thrower,'” Johnston said. “I wasn’t a hard thrower until probably last year when I started throwing decently hard. Once you catch up to your own body, then the (velocity) starts to come and when velo comes and you have the pitch-ability from when you’re younger, that makes you a well-rounded pitcher.”

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