MVP Sports Channel

From The Mean Streets Of Mound City

You’ll Pitch Your Arm Off Kid

On a 6th grade softball field, in a year too far in the past for dignified mention, your MVP reporter learned how baseball is unique among major sports.

“We played against a 17 year-old pitcher who is getting scouted big-time,” a Varsity coach said. “Saw a World Series ring on a guy from the Texas Rangers who was there.”

One might have had visions of Godzilla on the mound, perfect-gaming a helpless team of local boys. After all, an NBA prospect dominates on a high school court. A scholarship running back will exploit the poor tackling of Anarene High. But come to find out, our pukey little team had knocked the MLB prospect out of the box in 3 innings. “It was rainy,” the coach yawned. “It slowed down his fastball, and (agents) don’t want him throwing a lot of curveballs yet. Not a big deal.”

Pitching in high school is a strange affair due to the mental and physical demands of the position. The more talented a student-athlete, the more they are discouraged from learning fancy pitches. Even the repeated motion of an ordinary sinker can ruin the wrist of an underclassman. Not yet specialists, prep hurlers must work with a limited skill-set while batting and fielding for equal amounts of time.

A prep program will experience feast and famine from the rubber. Both were on full display last Thursday as Saint Louis University High (9-5, 3-3 Metro Catholic) pulled off a surprising 5-4 win over conference-rival Vianney, a 21-6 team (5-3 MCC) ranked 4th in metro-area “Large Schools” by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Starting SLUH pitcher Weston Baker gave up 5 hits and 4 runs…in the 1st inning. But when skipper Steve Nicollerat refused to yank him at such an early juncture, Baker braced up and somehow shut the door. “It’s easy to fold off that (1st inning), but he didn’t,” Nicollerat said of the senior standout.

Meanwhile, talented Vianney hurlers Noah Niznik and Tommy Kraus allowed the not-so-overwhelming Junior Billiken offense to chip out just enough base hits to make it 4-3 after 6 innings. Kraus tossed his way into a 7th-inning jam, then appeared to escape when SLUH’s Donovan Ditto dribbled an easy grounder. But junior base-runner Ricky Browne broke up a double-play attempt with a terrific slide at 2nd base, and the winning run scored after the ball shot into the outfield.

The Junior Bills play Chaminade this afternoon, while Vianney travels to St. Mary’s on Thursday.

Reports Batted-In

We’ve given the Tilghman Tornado a whole lot of Mean Streets love this season, but it would be a crime to overlook their nuclear-hot rivals from nearby McCracken County High School.

The Varsity Mustangs are the only club to score more than a couple of runs against Paducah Tilghman, and have beaten the Blue and White – twice. But the squad can boast far beyond that. Utilizing a powerful starting rotation, McCracken clinched top seed in District 1 while winning the USA Baseball Classic in April. Junior hurler Luke Seed pitched a perfect game against Mount Juliet on April Fool’s Day, giving the media a real story alongside those annual marshmallow harvests.

The SEMO Redhawks have managed to scrape out a barely-winning record in 2017, in what has become a season of painful transition. But the low point might have been Tuesday night at Saint Louis University, a school the ‘Hawks had beaten by 11 runs in April. After a hot start, the (NCAA) Billikens have been in a protracted, injury-addled slump.

SLU won the game 6-5, Trent Leimkuehler nailing a game-winning double in the 9th.

Westminster Wildcat baseball is saying farewell to Rich Van Gilst, who is retiring after an awesome 48 years of coaching the national pastime. Gilst led the Wildcats to four consecutive MSHSAA state titles from 2011 to 2014, and was inducted into the St. Louis Amateur Baseball Hall Of Fame earlier this spring.

 

by Mickey Mounds

Contributor, covering Missouri’s Bootheel and St Louis

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