Stillwater News Press

Sports

July 19, 2012

Stillwater High baseball using summer to develop pitchers

STILLWATER, Okla. — Come next spring, the Stillwater High baseball squad will have a totally different look from the state-qualifying team from this past season.

Gone are five key seniors, four of which started in the field, while the uncertainty of Ryder Jones (will he join his family in North Carolina with his father Billy Jones being named the baseball coach at Appalachian State, or will he remain in Stillwater?) lingers over the Pioneer program.

So while Stillwater High looks to fill the holes in the field, pitching will be a premium to keep the team stable until the offense is figured out.

Fortunately for SHS, they have a summer to work on the pitching staff.

“It’s huge. It’s not really easy to reload with hitters, but a lot of times you can teach guys things defensively and getting them prepared fundamentally,” said SHS assistant coach Chance Jeffery, who is coaching the Pioneer squad during the summer. “As far as working on pitches and missing barrels and lengthening your arm out and your innings on the bump, that’s really hard to do. So we’re giving them confidence on the mound and seeing what they can and can’t do in certain situations.”

Helping the development of the pitching staff has been the return of former SHS pitcher Matt Brown, who pitched last year for Division I Arkansas-Little Rock.

“It’s huge for those guys. They need to understand that he’s played high school baseball, he’s pitched against the best and now been at a Division I program for a year, so he’s seen a lot of stuff,” Jeffery said. “Him coming back and telling all these guys what they’ve got to do ... has been huge for our guys. He’s done a great job with them.”

Brown has been working exclusively with the pitchers and has even called the pitches during Stillwater’s summer games.

Brown brings a unique perspective for the young staff which will be without recent graduates Corey Hassel and Boo Todhunter — Stillwater’s top two starting pitchers this past spring. The former SHS standout was once in their shoes — learning to make the transition to pitch at the varsity level.

“There’s greatest coaches at Stillwater High, but sometimes it’s the message being presented in a different way that’s important,” Brown said. “Hearing the same thing from somebody else makes it more real. Something will click in their brain and make them think about doing it the right way.”

Brown said the simplest thing the young pitchers need to realize about their transition from jayvee to varsity is the same thing at any level — throw for strikes.

“The biggest thing is, no matter what level you are pitching, you’ve got to throw strikes. So you’re constantly reminding them they need to get strike one, throw two strikes out of three and just staying ahead of guys,” Brown said. “It’s the same way you’ve always pitched, it’s just now if you make mistakes they show up bigger out here.”

Through the summer both Brown and Jeffery said the arms are developing, with there being some promise there of having the arms to make up for the loss of the firepower from the senior class.

“We’ve had four or five guys throw really, really well this summer and we’ve had some guys who have thrown in short relief and close that have done a good job, too,” Jeffery said. “So I think we’ve developed actually quite a few pitchers. We have quite a few arms.”

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