QUINCY -- Jacob Kalusniak is used to seeing Quincy University right-hander Nick Stroud crisp and efficient with his warm-up tosses, but Saturday everything seemed just a little different.
"I could tell in the bullpen he was on," said Kalusniak, the junior catcher who has been behind the plate for each of Stroud's 10 starts this season. "In the bullpen, he was just nails."
Stroud had an inkling he was ready well before his bullpen session.
"I woke up this morning and I was like, 'Man, my arm feels good. My arm feels really good,'" Stroud said. "A full week of rest was great, and I was locked in ready to go."
That sensation never waned.
Stroud dismantled the top-hitting team in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, limiting Bellarmine to just four hits and setting a single-game school record with 18 strikeouts as the eighth-ranked Hawks picked up a 4-0 victory at QU Stadium in the rubber game of the three-game series.
"That's as dominating of a pitching performance in college baseball as you will ever see," QU coach Josh Rabe said.
Doing it against the Knights made it all the more impressive.
Bellarmine came into the weekend leading the GLVC in hitting (.341), home runs (56) and doubles (88). Stroud limited the Knights to one double and never more than one runner on base in any inning, stranding three runners in scoring position.
He walked only two and threw 122 pitches -- 85 were strikes -- in shutting out the Knights for the first time this season.
"He didn't miss a spot all day," QU center fielder Nolan Snyder said. "Every spot he hit was down in the zone unless they wanted up high. He commanded two breaking balls and didn't need a change-up. It looked like they had absolutely no chance out there."
It was that way from the start.
After Knights leadoff hitter Matt Higgins grounded out on the first pitch of the game, Stroud struck out Jay Mulcahy swinging and Zac Wiley looking. He struck out two batters again in the second -- both with a runner on third -- and punched out two more looking in the third inning.
"He looked crisp in the first inning and kept right on rolling," said Rabe, whose team won its ninth straight GLVC series and is 29-9 overall and 21-6 in the GLVC. "From the first breaking ball he threw, it was good. He was crisp."
Stroud took advantage of pitching with a lead.
Chandler Purcell led off the bottom of the first with a single, moved to second on a groundout and scored on Jeff Hightower's two-out single to left field. In the third, Purcell and Birdsong opened with back-to-back singles. After Lance Logsdon hit into a double play, Hightower singled to put runners at the corners and Michael Nielsen dumped a single into left field to score Birdsong and make it 2-0.
Stroud was determined to make that lead last.
"It was about staying focused on getting to the next inning, then start thinking ahead to what the lineup was going to be and what I need to throw," Stroud said. "I knew what I was going to throw. I just had to trust my stuff."
His stuff was electric, especially after the lead grew.
Snyder belted a two-run home run in the sixth for a 4-0 lead, the kind of advantage that seemed monumental under the circumstances.
"A 4-0 lead with Stroud on the mound, it was going to be a tall task to get four off him," Rabe said.
The only real hiccup Stroud faced was walking the leadoff hitter in the eighth.
"I kind of got on him a little bit, nothing more than a 'Let's go, Stroud,'" Kalusniak said. "He got back in it and grinded through it."
After striking out Mulcahy with a runner at third base to end the eighth, Stroud had throw 110 pitches, but the QU coaching staff wasn't going to deny him the chance at the complete game shutout.
"I looked at (pitching coach Matt Schissel) and he said, 'We've got to give him a chance at this,'" Rabe said. "I said, 'All right.' He went back out there and it was lights out."
He finished it like you might expect, with a three-pitch strikeout.
"Same mindset, same focus as the first inning," Stroud said. "It never changed."
That's why the results never did either.
"He was unbelievable," Kalusniak said. "He was awesome."
Quincy 4, Bellarmine 0
Bellarmine 000 000 000--0 4 0
Quincy 101 002 00x--4 11 0
Phillips, Pfaadt (5), Miley (8) and Gambert; Stroud and Kalusniak. WP--Stroud (6-2). LP--Phillips (3-1). 2B--Bellarmine 1 )Gambert), Quincy 1 (Birdsong). HR--Quincy 1 (Snyder).