The common denominator is 20.
Twenty years ago, Joplin High School left-hander Nathan Hughes struck out 20 batters as the Eagles edged Glendale 1-0 in nine innings on May 18, 2000, in the Class 4A District 12 baseball championship game.
Hughes and Glendale right-hander Mike Farabee matched zeroes on the Joe Becker Stadium scoreboard for 8 1/2 innings. Hughes allowed two infield hits and walked five batters in addition to his 20 strikeouts. Farabee yielded four hits, fanned seven and walked three.
"I can still remember some of my quotes after the game," Hughes said on Tuesday. "I remember I started to loosen up as the game went on. I had a good breaking ball. Probably I was effectively wild that day. That's the best way I know how to put it. I was around the plate enough to keep them on their toes.
"Michael Farabee had us off balance all night long. It was a big, slow curveball, and it was enough to keep everybody off balance. There was hardly any solid contact by anybody, a real pitchers' duel. I was frustrated at the time with no run support; at the same time, I didn't do anything to help myself out either. ... He and I started the fall together at Missouri Southern. We had a lot of talks about that game."
The Eagles finally scored an unearned run in the bottom of the ninth.
C.J. Ketchum reached base on an error — the only error of the game — with one out. Jon Gatz followed with a single, and pinch-runner Luke Lawver stopped at second base.
Jeff Taylor hit a ground ball to second baseman Scott Nasby, who tossed to shortstop Tim Johnson to force out Gatz, but Johnson's throw to first baseman Joey Ashcroft was late. Lawver hesitated rounding third but did not stop, and he scored as Ashcroft's throw to the plate was wide.
"I told (Lawver) that if they tried for a double play, he was going to try to score," Joplin coach Kirk Harryman said after the game. "We may have been here tomorrow."
"The run ... I was at home plate when he came in to score," Hughes said. "I was so excited. It was hard-fought."
Hughes struck out the final seven batters he faced, and he would not have returned to the mound for the 10th inning.
"We used Nathan in the semifinal to pitch the seventh," Harryman said. "After the ninth inning, if we didn't score, we were going to bring somebody else in. Nathan was unbelievable. We scuffled on offense. Fortunately, we were able to score a run in the ninth to get the win for him."
This was Harryman's first season as head coach, succeeding his uncle, Bob Tignor. The Eagles finished 18-11 and took fourth in the state tournament.
"Nathan could do it all," Harryman said. "Having him and that whole group of seniors my first year as head coach made my life a whole lot easier. We beat Lebanon at home in the sectional, and Nathan got the win. We went to St. Louis for the quarterfinals and beat Francis Howell North. Jake Lawver got the win, and Nathan got the save.
"We lost to DeSmet in the semifinals and to Liberty in the third-place game. Nathan took the loss against DeSmet and Bobby Keppel. He was a sandwich pick for the Mets between the first and second round of the 2000 draft and struck out 15 or 16."
Keppel went on to spend parts of three seasons in the majors — 2006 with the Royals, 2007 with the Rockies and 2009 with the Twins, where he made 37 relief appearances.
Hughes has no problem believing his gem was 20 years ago.
"I have a daughter who turns 12 years old on Memorial Day," he said. "I still see and talk to Steve Luebber regularly. I run into Coach Harryman and Coach Tignor from time to time. It's good to relive those days and still be able to talk baseball with those guys. But my daughter turning 12 is a very good reminder of how long ago it was."