But, neither did South Cobb.
Gilliam, it turns out, had everything working. His curveball moved within the strike zone, his change-up danced, confused hitters and the Eagles’ weren’t able to catch up to his fastball.
Kennesaw Mountain won the contest 3-0, and Gilliam found himself surrounded by teammates at the end of the game, congratulating him on his 10 strikeouts, three walks and seven-inning no-hit performance to begin region play.
“Throwing that no-hitter against South Cobb was definitely a highlight this season,” Gilliam said. “Just pitching the whole season healthy and being with my team was pretty special. Making the elite eight wasn’t too bad either.”
Gilliam played a key role in Kennesaw Mountain’s Region 4AAAAAA championship and its run to the Class AAAAAA state quarterfinals. A member of the Mustangs’ “Four Horsemen” pitching unit that also included Zach Goodman, Zack Chandler and Chase Slone, Gilliam finished the year with a nine wins, a 0.80 earned-run average with a team-leading 101 strikeouts over 69.2 innings pitched.
For his outstanding season, Gilliam is the 2014 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Baseball Pitcher of the Year.
“I was really excited (to find out he was pitcher of the year),” Gilliam said.” It was one of my goals at the beginning of the season. I had contenders like (Allatoona’s) Clarke Schmidt and (Mount Paran Christian’s) Jake Palomaki, so when I was selected, I was very excited.
“At the beginning of the season I set a goal to try and lead the county in strikeouts and I ended up doing that. I threw 101 strikeouts, and I believe that’s what set me apart from everyone else, and having an ERA under 1.00. I think my velocity really came through. I hit 92 miles per hour during the season and my curveball was pretty effective also.”
Gilliam appeared in 15 games, giving up 18 runs — eight earned — on 40 hits. He paced a pitching staff that owned a 1.187 ERA and helped Kennesaw Mountain to a 24-8 overall record.
“It was a fun year from the beginning,” said Gilliam, a junior who is verbally committed to Penn State. “With ‘The Four Horsemen,’ we all had ERAs under 1.00 throughout the majority of the season. We just helped each other out in terms of rest, and when I couldn’t pitch, somebody else was in there filling my spot or when Chase couldn’t pitch, Zack was in there filling his spot. That relief is really what got us to the elite eight.
“We all had our unique pitches and abilities on the mound, so we didn’t consider anyone a No. 1 starter. We were interchangeable and we were used the way coach thought was best.”
Kennesaw Mountain coach George Hansen always knew he would get Gilliam’s best effort when he sent him to the mound.
“It’s a well-deserved award for him,” Hansen said. “He’s an absolute bulldog. The days when he had his best stuff, he was absolutely unhittable, and the days he had a little bit less than his best stuff or his arm had a little bit of a twinge, he still worked his way through and was always still very effective.
“You never had to worry if he was going to give 100 percent effort out there. One of the biggest parts as to why we won the region championship was because of Ryley and his leadership on the mound. Just knowing that the days he went out to throw were days we had a good chance to walk away with a victory. The numbers he put up were pretty fantastic.”