Hallettsville pitchers cutting a path to victory (video)
March 30, 2013 at 10:05 p.m.
Updated March 29, 2013 at 10:30 p.m.
HALLETTSVILLE - Pitching and defense are always going to determine how long Hallettsville plays this spring.
That's the case with most teams, but the Brahmas are harnessing a pitch that's most associated with resurrecting careers in the collegiate and professional ranks.
Collectively, the Brahmas (16-2, 4-1) have a 1.11 earned run average through 18 games. One of the secrets may be a pitch rarely seen at the high school level - the cut fastball.
Carson Schindler and Reagan McAda are the only two Brahmas who utilize the unique pitch. Both were taught as sophomores because Hallettsville coach Shorty Cook wanted to teach them a breaking pitch, but not one that would not place as much stress on their arms.
"It gives you one more pitch to keep batters off balance," said McAda who is 4-0 with a 0.56 ERA in 25 innings this year. "It's one more pitch they have to think about each time they step in the box."
A cutter is a fastball that moves laterally away from a pitcher's arm. It comes out of a pitcher's hand looking like a fastball, but it's a little slower and breaks late. It's a pitch that turned Mariano Rivera from a pedestrian reliever into a future member of the Hall of Fame.
When asked what his cutter looks like, McAda said it resembles a fastball, but moves about 20 feet before it reaches home plate. "It's hard to see whenever I'm throwing it, but that's what I think it does," he said much to his amusement and that of his teammates.
Schindler said he threw his cutter nearly 30 percent of the time in the Brahmas' 16-0 victory over Nixon-Smiley on March 22. He allowed one hit and struck out nine batters in five innings of work to pick up his third win of the season.
"I would get a little better with spinning the ball and get more comfortable with it," Schindler said about developing comfort with the pitch over the last three years. "Like any pitch, the more you throw it the more comfortable you get with it and gain more command with it."
Schindler and McAda, as well as fellow senior pitchers Kory Smith and Chris Jones could not recall the last time any of them had to face a cutter when in the batter's box.
"Hitters aren't used to seeing it because pitchers at this level concentrate on their three core pitches," Schindler said.
The quartet has seen plenty of fastballs, curveballs and changeups this season, combining for a .410 batting average in 200 at-bats this season. As a team Hallettsville is hitting .406 and has a .510 on-base percentage.
Smith and Jones do not throw cutters. However, Jones, the only southpaw among the bunch, said his two-seam fastball acts like a cutter when thrown to right-handed hitters because it tails away from their bats.
Of course, Hallettsville's impressive pitching statistics are not solely because of the cut fastball. Jones has struck out 43 batters in 21 innings, while allowing just five walks. Collectively, the Brahmas pitchers are allowing less than a hit per or walk per inning.
"When we pitch we rely on our defense a lot," Jones said. "When you rely on your defense and they make plays for you it's good for team chemistry and it all works out in the end."
The Brahmas are ranked No. 7 in the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association's Class 2A poll.
Cook said that is a testament to his senior pitchers.
"They are the heart and soul of the team," Cook said. "They have been with the program the last four years. Chris, Reagan and Carson have been our starters since they were sophomores. Their experience in big games helps."
Smith did not pitch as much as a junior, but when given an opportunity this spring he's taken advantage. In 22 innings, he's allowed 15 hits, struck out 27 batters while sporting a 3-0 record and a 1.59 ERA.
"We have faith in any four of them that are up there," Schindler said. "We're going to support them all and bust it for all of them. We never really lose confidence when anyone comes in the game for someone. It doesn't matter who comes in on the mound, we know they are going to get it done."