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Two days after his father’s death, a Mississippi high school pitcher threw a two-hitter

By Patrick Magee

Sun Herald (Biloxi)

After powering two fastballs past the batter for an 0-2 count with two out in the top of the seventh inning, Stone High pitcher Gehrig Conard stepped off the back of the mound, adjusted his cap and began to rub the back of his neck.

The emotion of what had been an impossible couple of days began to catch up with Conard, and his teammates on the infield walked up to console him.

The junior’s father, former Stone High baseball coach and athletic director Kevin Conard, died Wednesday while cutting grass at his home. He was 44.

As teammates gathered around and hugged him in the middle of the infield Friday night, Gehrig was thinking of his father.

“Just flashes of him, seeing him smiling in my head,” he said. “He’d always come up to me with a smile after the game. To think I was going to have another good game in his name, it meant a lot. I just had to collect myself.”

Conard did indeed honor his father with an incredible performance under terrible circumstances in a 5-0 win over Purvis in Game 1 of a third-round Class 4A playoff series.

Two days after the death of his father, he tossed a complete-game shutout, holding the opponent to two hits and striking out 10 batters with four walks.

Conard has put together several dominant performances this season, including a whopping three no-hitters.

“To be honest with you, I think he would have rolled over in his grave if I didn’t (pitch),” Conard said. “He was one of the toughest men I’ve ever met, and he’s instilled a lot of stuff in me. I just want to respect him in every way possible, and I think he would have wanted me to go out there and do what I did.”

When Gehrig rushed three fastballs past the final man Friday night, he registered on the radar gun at 91 miles per hour — his best velocity of the season.

Where did that extra gas come from in the seventh inning?

“I don’t know,” Conard said. “He was giving it to me, I guess.”

GEHRIG CONARD EMBRACED BY HIS STONE HIGH TEAMMATES

Once Conard registered the final out, he was mobbed by teammates on pitcher’s mound.

Most of the players sobbed as the reality of the moment sunk in for everyone in the ballpark.

The stadium, which played host to the season’s largest crowd, was still packed as Conard hugged his teammates and then walked up to the stands to point out family and friends.

“It really showed me how much love and support that my dad had, and all the lives he impacted,” Conard said. “It showed me how much people love me, and appreciate me and him. I’m glad everybody was here. From family to people who just knew him, they wanted to come here and honor his name. It’s amazing. That’s the only word to describe it.”

Conard’s teammates and coaches were in awe as the game unfolded, watching their left-handed ace look every bit in control as they’ve seen him all season.

After the game, teammates smiled and fought through tears as they handed Conard the game ball.