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Pitchers hope to stymie foes at state

Staff writer

Pitcher is the only position in baseball that has a statistic for games won and games lost. This year, Hillsboro High School pitchers Kale Arnold, Dylan Delk, Ben Gardner, and Luke Moore have combined for a record of 16-5.

That record — combined with a regional championship — is good for the fourth seed at 3A state baseball tournament, beginning Friday in Manhattan. It will be the third consecutive year the Trojans have advanced to state, which Moore said raises expectations.

“Every year you want to make it back to Manhattan,” he said.

The Trojans can’t count on an advantage of being familiar with the field, as the location in Manhattan has changed.

“This year might be different, because we’re playing on K-State’s field,” Delk said.

Pitching and defense are the keys to advancing in the state tournament, the pitchers said. And those have been hallmarks of the Trojans’ successful season. In more than half of their wins, they allowed 1 or fewer runs.

The four-seam fastball is the mainstay of the HHS pitchers, as all four use the pitch. This pitch is typically the fastest pitch someone throws. His teammates estimated Delk’s fastball tops out around 80 mph.

To keep batters from keying in on their fastballs, Arnold, Delk, and Gardner use other pitches. Arnold and Delk use a change-up, and Delk and Gardner throw curveballs.

Regardless of which pitch is thrown, pitchers strive to use the same arm motion.

“If you have a different motion, batters will pick up on your curve,” Arnold said. “It’ll be gone.”

Both the change-up and curveball are slower pitches than a fastball. A curveball also falls more than expected because of topspin.

“It’s all in how you turn your wrist,” Delk said of the mechanics of throwing a curveball.

Gardner said he is also able to throw a knuckleball, but he seldom uses it. Knuckleballs, even when thrown by the best pitchers in Major League Baseball, are known for their unpredictable movement.

Head coach Doug Dick said he is keeping the same approach preparing for state tournament that the team used all season.

“One game at a time,” he said. “Trying to decide who I’m going to throw that first game.”

The players set a theme for the year of “Hustle makes it happen,” Dick said, and that starts with seniors Delk, Gardner, Aaron Bina, and Matt Martin setting examples.

Dick said he doesn’t think the Trojans have played their best baseball of the season yet. They haven’t put together a complete game of pitching, defense, and hitting against top-flight competition.

He said they will have to play a complete game to advance in the tournament. All of the teams at state will have pitching as good as the Trojans have seen all year, Dick said.

The Trojans begin state tournament Friday against fifth-seeded Silver Lake (15-7). The game is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. at Frank Myers Field at Tointon Family Stadium, which is located at 1800 College Ave., Manhattan. The state semifinals and championship games are Saturday.

Last modified May 26, 2011

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