High school pitcher Patrick Schuster has a simple approach when he steps on the mound.
"I never go up there thinking that a kid's going to get a hit off me," Schuster said.
For the past three starts, no one has been able to get a hit off of him.
The 6-foot-2 left-hander from J.W. Mitchell High School in New Port Richey, Fla., has thrown three consecutive no-hitters and will take the field Monday against his school's rival to try to extend the streak.
Schuster fired a complete game no-hitter in a 2-1 victory over Land O' Lakes on April 3. He threw another no-hitter April 8 at River Ridge in a game that ended after the fifth inning under a mercy rule with Mitchell leading 10-0. Schuster then no-hit Clearwater Central Catholic on Monday in a 2-0 victory.
Schuster, who is 7-0 with a 0.66 ERA this season, also threw the first six innings of a combined no-hitter to open the season Feb. 17.
He credits his success to luck, confidence and aggressiveness. But his 92 mph fastball might have something to do with it as well.
Schuster's coach, Scott Wilcox, said the pitch moves around a lot because of Schuster's three-quarter delivery, which is somewhere between a standard over-the-top pitch and sidearm. Schuster also throws a slider, curveball and changeup, all with good control.
Moreover, Wilcox said Schuster understands the game and his own capabilities.
"He just has the natural ability," Wilcox said. "I mean, this kid was born to be a pitcher."
Wilcox said teammates expect dominating performances from their star pitcher. After the third no-hitter, they shook hands with each other and with their opponents as if it were just another victory.
"The kids, they expect it," Wilcox said. "It's to the point where it's not surprising anybody, just because we've been watching Patrick the last four years, and he's just been getting better and better each year."
Schuster has kept his own celebrations as low-key as possible, preferring the team's traditional postgame meal at Beef 'O' Brady's to anything more elaborate.
Still, he enjoyed his most recent no-hitter.
"It was really exciting because it was pretty much on my shoulders the whole game," Schuster said. "I knew it was happening, and it was kind of a relief to finally have it over with. But now that I've got to do it again until I give up another hit, it's kind of nerve-wracking."
His next game is against rival Pasco on Monday, and he knows when he takes the mound that everyone is going to be watching to see if he can add to his streak. Schuster also knows that, eventually, someone is going to get a hit off him.
"I don't want to be heartbroken when it happens," he said. "It's going to happen. It's probably going to happen Monday, and everyone's going to be let down, but it's going to happen and I'm not going to be upset about it as long as we get the 'W.' "
Schuster, who lost an older brother to cancer several years ago, said he has wanted to be a baseball player since he was a toddler. His earliest formal picture features him wearing a baseball cap and holding a baseball.
"To be honest with you, every time anybody's asked me what I want to be when I grow up, it went from being a Power Ranger when I was 5 to being a Major League Baseball player," he said. "It's never changed. I sit down every once in a while and I think about, 'What would it be like to actually have a job?' It kind of scares me, to be honest with you. I hope to God everything works out."
His mother, Sharon, said baseball has always been a part of his personality.
"He is driven – so competitive and aggressive on the field – we have to rein him in sometimes," she said. "He is as kind a person as you ever want to know off the field, but an aggressive, driven individual on the field."
Between 10 and 15 major league scouts watched Schuster pitch his last no-hitter. A senior, he has already signed with the University of Florida and still plans to attend school there, but he's also waiting to see what offers he receives from the professional ranks.
While he hopes to earn a paycheck playing baseball, he also plays for fun. He said he hasn't spent more than two months away from the sport in the past five years and couldn't wait to get back on the diamond, even when he was playing for Mitchell's basketball team.
"I never take a break, and it's not because I want to get better all the time," he said. "It's because I love the game of baseball, and I can't get away from it."