The more the area Division IV picture begins to take shape for the post-season, the more the picture begins to focus on Fort Recovery, which proved Tuesday…the Indians have that oh-so-coveted luxury in high school baseball.
Marion Local – Jerry Kaup wore a broad smile as I approached him Monday. He could afford to; his Indians baseball team had just upped its seasonal record to 11-5 (4-1 in the MAC Conference). And best of all – for Kaup’s peace of mind – Nick Thwaits didn’t pitch.
Thwaits, the fire-balling junior pitcher who was clocked recently at 90 miles-per-hour against St. Henry, played right field and collected two of the Indians’ six hits in a 6-0 shutout of the Marion Local Flyers. So what? Ho-hum?
Not so fast, you Lee Corso connoisseurs.
Cade Wendel, a junior and jack-of-all-trades on the Indians’ roster, pitched. And boy, did he pitch! Outfitted with an average fastball, a better-than-average breaking pitch, and a competitive zeal every bit as formidable as Thwaits, he allowed just three hits, walked one, and struck out 10 Marion hitters on his way to his best-ever high school outing on the mound.
“He really pitched well,” said Kaup, afterwards. “The nice thing was he pitched with pace, he threw strikes, and we played well behind him. Offensively, we made the most of our at bats and opportunities. And defensively, we did a pretty good job, but I think we can be better. And I think we will be better.”
Recovery scored in five of the seven innings, one run in each of the first three innings, a pair of runs in the fifth, and their final run came in the sixth. And jack-of-all-trades that he is, Wendel was prominent at the plate, too, with a triple in two official at bats, two runs scored, and was on base three times.
But when will you see better than what Wendel displayed on the mound, winning his second game of the season against three losses, two of which came earlier in relief appearances?
He doesn’t throw as hard as Thwaits, but few in area Division IV do. But nonetheless, Wendel got high marks from his fellow hurler, not for what he did, but how he did it.
“He was good,” said Thwaits. “He just pounded the zone. He threw strikes and he worked fast. He’s good to play behind because he keeps everyone on their toes.”
What Thwaits didn’t say…was that Monday’s shutout proved that with the coming tournament draw Jerry Kaup has that much-coveted luxury of two quality starting arms to help offset the new rule limiting the number of pitches one can throw in a game, or a week. Wendel proved Tuesday that the Indians can mix and match, as needed.
“He did,” said Kaup. “I really liked the way he pitched. He works quickly and that makes it better for his teammates playing behind him. It helps us to become a better baseball ‘team’ and that’s the object. It’s allowed me to coach differently this spring.”
For his confidence on the mound, he was very soft-spoken and actually downplayed his part in the win over Marion.
“I felt good,” said Wendel. “But I knew my teammates had my back. I knew they were going to play well behind me.”
They couldn’t afford not to. The average time between Cade Wendel pitches was about eight seconds. And they did make the plays…a running catch in center field by Will Homan to rob Ian Kremer of a sure hit in the bottom of the seventh, just to punctuate the statement.
“I like to work fast, and I think I work faster now than I used to,” he added. “I know it helps our defense, and that’s good.”
And against a rising Marion program under Casey Witt that beat Versailles impressively last week…his pace seemed to have the Flyers swinging earlier in the count than necessary, and at pitches not necessarily strikes.
With impressive wins already against St. Henry and Versailles, Recovery still has dates ahead with Parkway, Coldwater and Minster. And as fate would have it, Kaup’s plan on becoming a better baseball team just took a giant step forward on Tuesday. You can never have too much pitching in baseball.
And you can’t ask for better than Cade Wendel was on Tuesday.