Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University and pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeye baseball team from 1971 through 1974.  He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league league umpire for seven years, working in the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA).  He has written for numerous websites and outdoor publications, and for the past ten years has served as a regular columnist and photo editor for Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press.  Widely knowledgeable on that period of American History, Fulks is a frequent speaker on the Civil War at local roundtables throughout the Midwest. He and wife Mindy have two grown children and live in Covington, Ohio.

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Nick Thwaits said he wasn’t sharp, and that’s bad news for upcoming opponents when he is. Not at his best, he still iced St. Henry’s bats in shutout fashion.

Fort Recovery – Nick Thwaits (pronounced Twaits) admitted afterwards that he wasn’t that sharp in Thursday’s 4-0 win over neighbor and MAC rival St. Henry.

Lord Almighty! If that’s the case…it’s bad news for upcoming MAC opponents that have to face him when HE IS sharp, and on his game.

Thwaits, a junior already committed to play collegiately at Kent State University, threw the first five innings Thursday allowing 1 hit, striking out eight and walking three. And that one hit was a cue shot off the end of the bat by St. Henry catcher Connor Bruggeman.  It flaired down the first base line and ricocheted off the bag. That was the Redskins’ only hit.

If you haven’t seen him…he does throw hard. A radar gun behind home plate Thursday gauged Thwaits’ fastball at 88, 89, and topped out at 90 in the second inning – impressive for a pitcher in any division of Ohio high school baseball. But in Division IV, against St. Henry on Thursday afternoon, it was simply overwhelming.

In the meantime the Indians supported their junior fireballer with three first inning runs (two unearned) on a single by Cade Wendel, a walk to Twaits, a costly error on a ground ball by Will Homan, and another single by first baseman Reese Rogers. But by the time St. Henry pitcher Parker Link got control of things…the damage was done.

For his part Link then turned just as stingy with base hits, shutting down Recovery until the bottom of the sixth when they added an insurance run, that frankly, they didn’t need. Micaiah Cox relieved Thwaits in the sixth and retired the game’s final six outs without threat.

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“He wasn’t sharp, or at his best today,” said Fort coach, Jerry Kaup, who this week has become accustomed to no-hitters and near no-hitters. Just three days ago his team and Delphos St. John hooked up in a 10-inning affair in which NEITHER team had a hit – that’s NEITHER team – and St. John won it in the bottom of the 10th on an unearned run, 1-0.

“This was Nick’s third start, his second win, and I really believe he’s going to get even better,” said Kaup. “He’s a special baseball player and he’s pretty much showing that every time he gets on the mound. You saw today why he’s being recruited. He works hard on his skills all year round. He wasn’t at his best today, but he’s developing into a pitcher where you’re going to get the best of what he has on a given day.”

Recovery's Cade Wendel slides past St. Henry catcher Connor Bruggeman for a first inning run.

Recovery’s Cade Wendel slides past St. Henry catcher Connor Bruggeman for a first inning run.

His “off” day was more than good enough. St. Henry hitters were behind the fastball – and when they tried to anticipate and start their swing early Thwaits has a sharp-breaking curveball/slider to complement his velocity.  As for command, he was just ‘wild’ enough as to not be taken for granted.

“It wasn’t my best,” admitted Thwaits. “But I was able to throw enough strikes to go out and keep us in the ballgame. I didn’t have my curveball working for me in the early innings, but it was good enough to stay in the game.”

And to Kaup’s assertion that his development is allowing him to make adjustments for being a bit “off”, Thwaits agreed.

“Towards the end of the game I was beginning to get the feel of my breaking pitches. It was getting better, but it definitely took some adjustments.”

There you have it.

Just a junior, he’s bigger (25 pounds worth), stronger, and more composed than the sophomore who just reared back and threw hard, and harder, in last June’s Division IV semi-final game against Newark Catholic. Recruited aggressively by Division I colleges across the state for the past two years, he chose Kent State last summer…over the Ohio State Buckeyes.

“I chose Kent State because I really liked the pitching coach there (Mike Birkbeck). He’s been there for 20 years and last year they had the national pitcher of the year. So they definitely have a good track record. I just really connected with them. It wasn’t an easy choice.”

And was it that hard to say no to Greg Beals and the Buckeyes?

“Definitely,” he says. “It was a very difficult choice.”

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Having made appearances in the back-to-back state tournaments, the question in area Division IV once again is…how much does Fort Recovery have left besides Nick Thwaits?

“We have high expectations,” Thwaits admits. “We have to come in every day and perform. We take every at bat and every game seriously. We don’t overlook anybody. If we can continue to do that I think we can go where we want to go.”

Contrary to the headline of this story, Nick Thwaits is not literally a one-man show at Fort Recovery. Modest to a fault, perhaps, he’d be mortified to even allow himself such hyperbole.

Offensively, though, Kaup will tell you he really doesn’t know how good the Indians are, or who the offensive weapons will eventually be.

MAC_logo2inset“No,” he says. “We have some experimenting to do there and we hope we can find the right pieces, formula. I had thought at the beginning of the year that we’d score more runs this year, but that hasn’t come to fruition yet.”

But until then they have Nick Thwaits. On an average day, like Thursday, he’s good enough to beat anyone.

On days when he IS at his best he’s good enough to be…a one-man show!

Fort Recovery's Ben Homan gets caught off second in the sixth inning of Thursday's win.

Fort Recovery’s Ben Homan gets caught off second in the sixth inning of Thursday’s win.

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