MAHOMET — Carter Johnson hadn’t been part of a no-hitter.
Neither had Anthony Silkwood.
The former is a Mahomet-Seymour sophomore trying to crack the Bulldogs’ varsity baseball team in 2021.
The latter is a 27-year-old recent Parkland College graduate who next month is reporting to the University of Louisville to start his tenure in Division I baseball.
Last Friday, the two broke through the no-hitter barrier together — as athlete and coach.
Representing the Yard Goats 15U team that Silkwood leads, Johnson stymied the Indiana Blue Eagles over the course of seven hitless innings.
His 83-pitch performance included six strikeouts, two walks and one hit batter in a 4-0 Yard Goats victory that helped the travel club to a 4-0 mark in pool play at the Greater Lafayette (Ind.) World Series.
The Yard Goats eventually dropped a gold bracket quarterfinal game to end their tournament, but Johnson’s effort gave the Yard Goats, a team filled with talent from across east central Illinois, something to talk about after returning to Illinois.
“Something I can’t even describe. An amazing thrill,” Johnson said of the achievement. “It may never happen again. It may never happen to most people.”
Johnson said he’s pitched in five or six games with the Yard Dogs since their season started in mid-June, regularly playing catcher otherwise. This particular outing didn’t begin in any special way, as Johnson hit the second batter he faced with a pitch.
“Then I started to get the outs and roll along, and I was feeling really good,” Johnson said. “I didn’t think I’d get a no-hitter. I definitely thought I could get through the whole game.”
Johnson contends he wouldn’t be in position to keep an opponent out of the hit column if it wasn’t for Silkwood.
The future Louisville hurler joined the U.S. Marines out of Marquette Catholic High School in Alton before spending time with baseball programs at John Wood Community College and Parkland and eventually getting scouted by Louisville.
Johnson has been receiving private pitching lessons from Silkwood in addition to guidance during Yard Goats practices and games, with Silkwood helping Johnson add a slider to his pitching arsenal.
“He’s taught me a lot about just pitching in general,” Johnson said of Silkwood, “and it’s helped me gain more velocity on my fastball and more control on my breaking pitches.”
For his part, Silkwood believed Johnson had no-hitter capability within him all along.
“Anybody who works at pitching and works at their craft has the potential to do something awesome, and a no-hitter’s as awesome as it gets,” Silkwood said. “Carter understands (being a catcher) how to call pitches and how to attack hitters. ... I think that’s helped him out a lot (when he pitches).”
The circumstances surrounding Johnson’s no-hitter, however, aren’t quite as straightforward as “player receives pitching help and follows through with what he learned.”
For one, the Yard Goats didn’t exist until this year.
Scotty Harvey owns the Mahomet-based Central Illinois Athletic Academy, which caters to local youth baseball and softball athletes. Harvey said some parents of kids at the high-school level reached out to him with the idea of creating a travel program that could run practices through the academy’s facility.
Thus the Yard Goats were born, fielding 15U, 16U and 17U teams during a 2020 travel season shortened by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Harvey then contacted Silkwood not long before travel baseball returned, offering Silkwood the opportunity to coach that 15U squad.
“Guys like him, they either have it or they don’t as far as coaching DNA. He just has it,” Harvey said of Silkwood. “I believe ... when he decides to hang up his cleats for baseball that’s what he’s going to get into is coaching.”
“It’s pretty awesome,” added Silkwood, who is in his first head coaching gig. “The Yard Goats program is top-notch. ... I’ve had nothing but a good time since I started coaching them.”
A high point of that fun is Johnson’s no-hitter.
Silkwood was amused by how Johnson’s teammates handled the excitement surrounding each at-bat as the game stretched into its later innings.
“They’re not trying to say he’s throwing a no-hitter and they’re not talking about it, but you can tell they’re hinting at it,” Silkwood said. “It’s just funny to watch from afar.”
Johnson said the accomplishment was on his mind as he neared finalizing it, though he noted his teammates weren’t discussing the matter with him.
When the final out was in the books, Silkwood said the boys rushed to the mound to mob Johnson.
“It was like we won the World Series, and it was really cool,” Silkwood said. “I was pumped. The fans were pumped. It was an exciting time.”
Harvey wasn’t physically present for the event but said he wasn’t surprised Johnson — whom Harvey coached for a few years prior to 2020 — put the 15U Yard Goats on the no-hitter board.
“That kid’s capable of doing anything,” Harvey said. “He’s just that kid.”
Johnson and Silkwood soon will go their separate ways. Perhaps Silkwood will compile a no-hitter of his own while with the Cardinals in Kentucky.
Regardless, the pair always will be connected through Johnson’s dominant day.
“This being my first year as a head coach and being able to watch a no-hitter being thrown by one of my players is the coolest thing,” Silkwood said. “The next coolest thing was how everyone on the team was so excited and so stoked for him when it happened.”