By Craig Morgan,
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Ryan Hingst may be the only athlete in America whose pregame routine includes a psychology quiz.
"I have one every Friday," the Arizona State sophomore pitcher said. "We play a lot of Friday games."
Hingst had one on March 25, but an unforeseen snafu that morning perfectly illustrates the challenges that student-athletes face on a daily basis, as well as their ability to overcome those challenges.
"I woke up and I tried to take my test that morning but my WiFi at my condo went down so I couldn't do it," said Hingst, who was scheduled to start that night against Utah and also had an accounting quiz due that evening. "I emailed my professor and she extended my deadline until midnight, so I was just like, 'OK. I'll just have to go home right after the game and get both done."
Instead of stressing over the unexpected change of plans, Hingst ate his typical pre-game meal at noon, did some other studying, relaxed a bit to get his mind right and finally ate a peanut and jelly sandwich.
Then he went out and tossed a no-hitter in his first start of the season, and the first Pac-12 start of his career. Then he went home, completed both quizzes by 11:55 p.m. and performed well on both.
"You'll hear often that student-athletes get all these advantages and people say it as if it's a negative," ASU coach Tracy Smith said. "To them I would say 'if a regular student would walk one day in the shoes of a student-athlete they would understand that to whom much is given much is expected.'
"That day may have seemed unusual and crazy with all he had to do, but there's a lot of kids who do that and that becomes life as they know it; it becomes normal. I will never make apologies for what our kids get. They may look like advantages, but they make a lot of sacrifices to receive those benefits."
Hingst can't recall anything unusual about the hours preceding his monumental performance. He didn't even have his best stuff in his bullpen session before the game.
"I wasn't really locating in the bullpen and my off-speed stuff wasn't that good -- it wasn't even that good during the game," he said. "Once I finally got on the mound, at least my fastball came in; I got that back and I could pretty much throw it wherever I wanted.
"I really just relied on that the whole game. I threw a couple good change-ups when I needed to but my curveball was bad so I just decided I was going to challenge them with my best stuff."
Around the sixth inning his teammates started ignoring him and pitching coach Brandon Higelin was nowhere to be found.
"Higgy is usually right next to me, talking to me and trying to relax me," Hingst said. "I think he was out in the bullpen or something."
Smith didn't even realize Hingst was crafting a no-hitter until the fifth inning. Once he did, an unwritten code of conduct went into effect and Hingst was left alone with his thoughts.
"That's just baseball," Smith said. "We're superstitious."
Catcher Brian Serven likes to tease Hingst about his inability to finish games. Even when Hingst does, it's via a walk-off so he never does it on the mound.
"He was standing right next to me when the final fly ball was in the air and when it was caught he gave me a big hug," said Hingst, who threw a career-high 121 pitches. "The rest of that night was a blur until I got home.
"Everyone always asks 'how did you celebrate the no-hitter?' I took two quizzes."
Hingst estimates he dedicates about four to five hours every day to baseball with the rest devoted to school, classes, meals and sleep.
He does have a social life, but he admits it's not always the most attractive option.
"Friends will be like 'oh, we're all going out. Do you want to go?' I'm like, 'I just want to go home and sleep.'"
After witnessing Friday's performance, Smith wouldn't change a thing about Hingst's work-life balance.
"I loved being there for that," Smith said. "As a player, I got to see a college teammate of mine do it, but this was my first one as coach and I'm particularly happy for him because that was his first Pac-12 start and he earned it by working hard in practice.
"Now all he has to do is follow it up with a perfect game and everything is good."