He had survived the worst of Spring Grove in the first inning. Afterwards, when his no-hitter was complete and J.P. McCaskey had clinched a 5-0 victory in the District 3 Class AAAA quarterfinal playoff at Penn Manor High School, he would explain the bases-loaded jams he pitched out of in the first had a lot to do with playoff jitters. He couldn't control his nerves.
By the end of the game, it was Fun Time.
When the first-base umpire signaled that Spring Grove's Brandon Warner had not been able to check his swing on the final pitch of the night, Hartman pumped his fist at his side and spread his arms wide to greet the teammates and coaches who rushed out of the McCaskey dugout.
The loss marked the end of the season for Spring Grove (15-8).
"Not to ever downplay another group of kids I've had, but this is the most special group of young men I've ever coached," Spring Grove coach Eric Zeigler said. "Up and down, it's a complete team. In practice, every day was a complete joy. There wasn't one day where you say, 'Ah, I sort of dread going there today.'
"These kids made coaching fun. It was an honor of mine to coach these kids. And our six seniors, I really feel for those guys because they have given so much time and effort. ... As a coach you hurt so bad for your kids, and that's how I feel right now."
The win allowed McCaskey -- the worst seeded team in the tournament at No. 16 -- to advance to the district semifinals where it will play No. 5 seed Lower Dauphin (17-5-1) on Tuesday.
"We practiced for this, we came out strong and stayed up all game," Hartman said. "Good things like this can happen. Everybody's up, nobody's getting down on each other. ... We're just hitting the ball and stuff happens."
Hartman struck out 10 and walked six, using a fastball and curveball exclusively. He pitched with runners on base in each inning except the second and seventh, moving the ball inside and out and also moving it from knee level to chest height.
"He had his fair share of walks, but when he needed to make a big pitch he did it against us today," Zeigler said.
Facing a bases-loaded situation with no outs in the first, Spring Grove's Trevor Troxel hit a liner that shortstop Miguel Torres leaped and snared. He flipped to second for a double play. After another walk loaded the bases again in the first, Hartman struck out Dalton Hoiles looking on a 2-2 pitch inside, causing the junior to look back at the umpire in shock.
"First inning is just nerves, all nerves," Hartman said. "I want to win; I love winning."
Despite a rough first two innings, Spring Grove pitcher Levi Krause finished strong. He retired 15 of the last 17 batters he faced, allowing McCaskey just a single and walk in the final five innings.
McCaskey scored in the first on a single, a stolen base, an error on a line drive hit to the outfield and a sacrifice fly. In the second, a leadoff double by Stephen Wilson ultimately led to a four-run outburst. McCaskey compiled four hits in the inning and kept putting baserunners in motion. Torres managed to score from second on a wild pitch, taking advantage of a ball Spring Grove catcher Johnny Gross didn't see at the edge of the backstop.
And then it was all Hartman. The left-hander had combined on a no-hitter against Solanco earlier this season, going into the seventh before a reliever entered the game. He also fired a one-hitter against Lebanon.
His nerves were never an issue after the first inning.
"It's not so scary pitching when you have a comfortable lead," Hartman said.
J.P. McCASKEY 5, SRING GROVE 0
J.P. McCaskey 140 000 0 -- 5 6 3
Spring Grove 000 000 0 -- 0 0 1
JPM, James Hartman and Brenden Markley; SG, Levi Krause and Johnny Gross. SO-BB -- JPM, Hartman 10-6; SG, Krause 5-1. W -- Hartman (7-3). L -- Krause. 2B -- JPM, Stephen Wilson.