In Major League Baseball’s 145 years, only 23 perfect games have been recorded.
The achievement isn’t quite that rare at the high school level, but it is still a notable accomplishment for Centennial sophomore Cristian Mogen.
Mogen threw 84 pitches in the recent 6-0 win over Glendale’s Kellis High School, striking out 14 of the 21 batters he faced, without allowing a single one to get on base.
“It felt pretty good. I haven’t really done anything like that,” Mogen said. “It was a pretty good moment in my baseball career, so it was really nice.”
It wasn’t until the fifth inning that he realized the accomplishment was within reach, when Centennial coach Jon Williams had to decide whether to pull Mogen or give him a shot at completing his perfect game.
“The week before, against Apollo, I think I threw like 98 pitches, and so that game (against Kellis), my coaches didn’t want me to throw as many pitches as I did against Apollo,” Mogen said.
“In the fifth inning, my head coach, Jon (Williams), pulled me aside and told me that I was about to be at my pitch count for that week, but he didn’t know if he wanted to pull me because I was perfect. He made the decision while we were hitting to leave me in, so yeah, that’s basically when I realized that I was going perfect.”
Primarily a shortstop until this year, Mogen is relatively new to pitching and said he didn’t expect something like this happen so quickly.
“This is my first year pitching for high school, and I’m just getting used to it,” Mogen said. “Going into the first couple games, it was a new experience to pitch against varsity-level players and other teams like that, so I was kind of surprised that (the perfect game) happened.”
He said his previous outing against Apollo, a 7-0 complete-game victory where he struck out 10, proved to himself that he was ready to pitch at the varsity level.
“I think it gave me a lot of confidence because going into the Apollo game, we knew that they were a good team and we couldn’t take them lightly,” Mogen said. “Getting through the whole game with a shutout felt really good. My team backed me up with a lot of defense. Our whole team was just doing great, and it was a big confidence boost going into the Kellis games.”
With a comfortable 6-0 lead, Mogen said he didn’t feel much pressure to finish his perfect game when he returned to the mound for the seventh and final inning.
“I wasn’t really stressing over it. My team was playing great defense behind me, and I went out there and just did what I did in the other innings, just hoped everything fell into place,” Mogen said. “I’ve just been trying to not overthink things, because stressing about it makes it worse.”
He credits his longtime coaches for helping him stay comfortable and play his game.
“Throughout my baseball career, Jon has coached me through all age groups. When I was 8, I played on a club team with him, and we’ve just been going up through the ages,” Mogen said. “There’s another coach, coach (Roberto) Ramos on Centennial, we’ve just been playing club ball together through the years, and they’ve just been coaching me up. They’ve basically made me who I am today.”
He also stressed how important his teammates were in accomplishing the feat.
“For the perfect game, there were a lot of good defensive plays. It wasn’t just me pitching,” Mogen said. “There were a couple pretty tough plays that the defense made, so it was mostly on the defense. I was just there throwing strikes.”
After growing up idolizing former Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, Mogen said his current role model is a Texas Rangers prospect and Glendale native.
“A younger role model who I have is a guy named Jonathan Ornelas. He got drafted by the Rangers,” Mogen said. “I knew his brother while I was growing up, and the way he worked at everything that he did, I just kind of looked up to him.”
He said his dream is to play college baseball in a few years and hopefully turn pro, but for now, Mogen is focused on helping the Coyotes.
“I feel like we’re going to do really good this year. With coach Jon being head coach for his second year now, I feel like the whole culture has changed,” Mogen said. “We’re playing as a good team, everyone is putting together good at-bats, and everyone’s playing with a team mentality. I feel like we can do big things this year.”