Back in the times when nearly every village and hamlet had a baseball team to play on its cow-pasture field, the old-timers looked upon a moundsman who relied heavily on his fastball and said he was a traditional “good ol’ country hardball” pitcher.
The batters knew what was coming — one fastball after another. Nobody was fooled. But if the country pitcher had a good enough fastball he just “reared back and cut it loose”. And he won.
Decades later, Washington High right-hander Ryan Pansch has a fastball that can mow down high school batters.
Last Friday, Pansch threw 141 pitches against county rival Jefferson in a big-school Sectional tournament game. And he threw two curveballs in the first two innings . . . and none after that. Playing good ‘ol country hardball, Pansch struck out 15 Jefferson batters. And his dominance led the Patriots to a 4-1 win that kept Washington unbeaten in the tournament.
Fifteen strikeouts. All with fastballs. Some when his arm was rebelling and hurt him to “rear back”.
Two hits did Pansch allow in a follow-up performance to his earlier 14-strikeout, shutout win he had just weeks earlier against the Cougars.
After fanning seven of the first 10 outs he achieved, Pansch was showing noticeable discomfort in the fourth inning. He slowed his pace, continually adjusted the bottom of his pants leg, backed off the mound, straighthened his arm after pitches, and had repeated talks with his catcher and coach.
Pansch delivered pitches that were at least 10 miles-per-hour slower that his normal fastball.
But he continued. With a number of less-than-zesty fastballs, he still struck out the side in the fifth. Even in the sixth where the Cougars scored their only run and stranded two runners, he fanned a pair.
Pansch closed out his route-going performance by striking out the side in the seventh. His number of 3-2 counts were many, but still he walked only four and hit one batter.
Washington had seven hits off Jefferson pitcher Sean Spotts. A first-inning run came on Pansch’s RBI double that was helped by the sun being in the centerfielder’s eyes. Pansch drove in Washington’s second run with a single. Jared Silva’s bloop single plated Pansch with the third Washington run. And pinch-hitter Hunter Weaver delivered the last run with his sharp single.
Jefferson’s only early scoring chance came when it had a hit from Andrew Grove and received a Pansch walk to Anthony DiAmario with one out in the third. After another strikeout, Fraser Brown drilled a long fly toward deep right-center. Outfielder Drew Hetzel made an outstanding leaping catch . . . and then held the ball after tumbling to the hard ground. Hetzel’s catch ended the inning. And the Cougars were still scoreless.
Jefferson was already trailing by four runs when its only other realistic threat came in the sixth. An infield error, Dennis Jackson’s single, and Andrew King’s sacrifice fly had finally produced a run.
Two runners were still aboard. But Pansch fanned pinch-hitter Michael King to chase off the trouble. Pansch, back throwing with his first-few-innings velocity, struck out the side in the seventh.
“Country hardball” had won the day. Fifteen strikeouts with all fastballs. Pansch had recorded 29 strikeouts in 14 innings against Jefferson this season.