Behind the dominant pitching effort of sophomore Nick Thwaits, Ft. Recovery served notice on the coach’s recent suggestion…that his team had yet to play its best baseball.
Minster – Ft. Recovery coach Jerry Kaup patiently, and graciously, accepted the outcome of his team’s 6-3 loss to Coldwater earlier in the week by admitting that his team had indeed lost to a better baseball team on that day.
And then, as if prophesying for future opponents, he added, “But I don’t think we’ve played our best baseball yet. I hope we do.”
He must have been thinking of the prospect of having sophomore transfer Nick Thwaits on the mound come Thursday, when Recovery would next play against Minster (13-4, 4-1 in the MAC) at Hanover St. Park in Minster. Because Thwaits did pitch, he did put on a show, and he gave every reason to believe, indeed, that Jerry Kaup and the Ft. Recovery Indians had yet to play their best baseball.
Thwaits threw a complete game, 8-inning 2-hitter, striking out 11 and walking two, in shutting out the two-time state champion Wildcats, 3-0.
The game was actually tied at 0-0 through seven innings, thanks to an equally impressive performance by Minster senior Josh Nixon, who limited Recovery to just four hits while striking out 7 and walking 4, but the Minster offense was simply helpless against the fire-balling sophomore who’s quickly showing up on the radar of every Division I college program in the state of Ohio…and some outside the state, as well.
Thwaits struck out five of the first nine outs, including four in a row in the second and third innings, mixing an 85 mile-per-hour fastball with a sharp breaking ball that simply baffled the Minster hitters. His first surrendered with was to Minster’s #9 hitter, Bryce Schmiesing, in the third…and his last was to shortstop Pete Falk in the eighth!
And as the skies darkened and a steady drizzle set in with the sixth inning, he upped his velocity and dominance clearly, throwing at least three to four miles per hour harder, making it all the more tough on opposing hitters to make contact in the gathering gloom.
“Nick was excellent,” said Kaup. “Pitching is 80% of a baseball game and when you’re that sound on the mound it certainly helps take care of the things you do wrong. I happy for Nick and the way he pitched against a very good Minster baseball team. You can’t take anything away from their pitcher (Nixon) or the way they played. They were very good.”
Scoreless through seven innings, Ft. Recovery finally broke through in the top of the eighth against Nixon. With one out right fielder Ross Homan walked and stole second base. Batting ninth in the order, Will Homan then followed with a slow chopper to third base that he beat out for a base hit, but Minster third baseman Aaron Ernst came up firing to first and threw wildly, allowing the Ross Homan to score the game’s first run.
Thwaits followed with a walk, and Cade Wendel bunted for a base hit down the third base line, allowing Will Homan to go to third. Jackson Hobbs then lifted a ball to center for a sacrifice fly, allowing Homan to score to make it 2-0. Jacob Homan then followed with another base on balls to load the bases…and a subsequent walk to Hunter Boughman, Nixon’s fourth walk of the game, forced in the final run…3-0.
It was all that Thwaits would need, as he struck out two of the remaining outs necessary in the bottom of the eight, surrendering only a single that ricocheted off the third base bag for Minster’s second hit of the game, and finished it with a ground ball to second baseman Wendel.
For the sake of good baseball, it wasn’t only Thwaits…he had plenty of defensive help behind his effort. A pair of middle infield double plays helped him out, and left fielder Kyle Schroer was Johnny-on-the-spot for line outs in the seventh by Ben Stubbs and Jared Huelsman, two of the harder hit balls of the day for Minster.
“But he took a lot of things into his own hands,” said Kaup of his young pitcher. “There’s was a little ‘have some’ when he really needed an out with his fastball. We’re happy for him. He had a great start today and we’re hoping for more of that.”
Thwaits had little to say, actually, appreciative of the effort of his teammates and faithful in their ability to eventually score.
“This was a great win for our us against a good baseball team,” he added quietly. “My teammates played well behind me and I kept believing in their ability to hit and score us some runs.”
Simple as that?
“Tonight was just good baseball,” said teammate Jackson Hobbs, who pitched well in that losing effort earlier to Coldwater. “Nick had his ‘A’ stuff tonight, exactly as advertised. He came in, had to sit out some games (due to transfer), but we’re glad to have him. Tonight is exactly what we expect from him. We played good defense, eventually put up three runs, and it was a great win for us.”
Minster coach Mike Wiss, himself, could do nothing but compliment.
“I told our kids that we will not walk out of here with our heads down,” he said with a shrug. “Look, we’ve seen great pitching like tonight all year long. This is my 22nd year and I’ve never seen the arms that have gone out there like I’ve seen, team after team after team…not like this year. That really wears on a young team’s mind and Nick was really tough tonight. He owned the inner half of the plate and when you throw as hard as he does that’s what you do…you own the inner half of the plate until someone takes it away from you. And today we never took it away from him.”
Minster drops to 13-5, while Ft. Recovery improved to 11-6 for the year, with just their second MAC win against two losses. The weather has not been kind to them in the respect of scheduling.
And to his point about playing better baseball, well, Jerry Kaup makes the point correctly when he says…that baseball is about 80% pitching. And when you can back up Jackson Hobbs, who won 11 in pitching the Indians to the state tournament last year, now with Nick Thwaits throwing as he did Thursday, well…you just might have something.
“If only I could throw that hard,” laughed Hobbs, thinking of his teammate’s effort and results, salivating for more such days with the stack of games in league play and tournament yet to come. “They (Minster are a good team). Josh Nixon is a good friend of mine, they’ve got some quality wins, and as you saw, when you can pitch like that you have a chance to beat anyone. It was fun to watch.”
That, in as many words, is what Jerry Kaup was trying to say on Tuesday after Coldwater. Their best is yet to come.