Notre Dame boasts strong arms, improved field

Thursday, March 26, 2009
KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com
Notre Dame junior Dylan Drury delivered against Perryville Tuesday, May 13, 2008, during their district match in Cape Girardeau.

The Notre Dame baseball team begins its 2009 season ranked second in the Class 3 preseason state poll and with a new look to its pitching staff and baseball field.

The Bulldogs, who tied for third in Class 3 at the state tournament last year, graduated their ace pitcher, Mark Himmelberg, but they have talented junior right-hander Colton Young ready to step into a starting role after closing games last year.

Young, who was one of the top local relief pitchers, posted a 2-1 record, three saves, 52 strikeouts and a 2.30 ERA while opponents batted just .168 against him in 27 1/3 innings last spring. Young earned the win on the mound in Notre Dame's season opener against Sikeston on Tuesday.

"I like being the starter," Young said. "I like to pitch more innings. But it's really all about the team and winning. If I need to close, then I know I can still close because I like being in that situation."

Young posted a 0.69 ERA in 20 1/3 innings through district play as a sophomore, but his ERA rose significantly in the semifinal game against St. Dominic when multiple Bulldogs pitchers, including Young, struggled and combined to surrender 25 runs to the Crusaders.

KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com
Notre Dame's Dylan Drury will be counted to be one of the Bulldogs' top starting pitchers this season.

Young worked with Notre Dame catcher Mark Hagedorn during the offseason. The two played on the same summer baseball team.

"He improved a lot over the summer," Hagedorn said about Young. "He really improved on his offspeed work. He's got his curveball working pretty good."

Young primarily retired batters using his fastball, which he said he is able to throw in the mid 80s, as a relief pitcher.

"My breaking ball is a lot better than it was," Young said. "It's a lot sharper and a lot more consistent. So hopefully, now I can get people out with more than just a fastball."

Senior Dylan Drury returns to the rotation. He was the No. 2 pitcher behind Himmelberg. Drury went 5-1 with a 3.15 ERA and struck out 59 batters in 40 innings.

FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com
Notre Dame's Colton Young throws to first base during a game last season.

"I'm still going to have my confidence to think that I can be the ace of this staff with me being a senior," Drury said. "Colton has got a little bit more tools with him, throwing a little harder than I do, but I still like to go out there and think I can be the leader.

"I've improved my fastball. I've been working out [with] Talley Haines a lot and he's helped my mechanics tremendously and he's got me throwing a lot better. My changeup has come a long way since last year also."

Notre Dame coach Jeff Graviett said that he likely would start out with Drury and Young as his two main starters, but added that Young thrived as a reliever, so he might put Young back in the bullpen if other pitchers step up and throw well in a starting role.

Tanner Hiett and Aaron Tomaszewski, who pitched some last year, junior left-hander Jeremy Essner, who was injured last spring, and junior right-hander Trenton St. Cin are among the pitching candidates who could earn a spot on the staff, Graviett said.

"Tanner and Aaron both threw a small amount of innings for us last year," Graviett said. "You'd like to see Tanner make that big step up and contribute more for us, and he's worked real hard this winter to get there, as has Aaron."

KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com
Austin Greer drives in a run during a Notre Dame district playoff game last season.

New look field

Notre Dame's field has brand new dugouts built into the ground and 150 stadium seats. Additionally, a brick wall was constructed behind home plate.

Graviett said the money used to pay for the dugouts, seats and brick wall came from donations and sign sponsors. He added the changes likely have made the field not only one of the nicest high school ballparks in the area, but also probably one of the best in the state.

"Not many people have an opportunity to play on this nice a field," Young said. "Some college fields aren't even this nice. We've just got to be thankful for what we've got."

Notre Dame already had made other improvements to the field last year, including purchasing lights and putting down a new playing surface and warning track.

"Last year was the starting stages," Graviett said. "We obviously wanted to work the playing surface first and felt lights were needed, so we did those two things last year. ... A lot of people come out here and see the dugouts and that type of stuff, but the playing surface is just tremendous -- done professionally with the clay and the whole bit. We just started there and we haven't stopped. ... The field has turned this into one of the nicer high school ballparks."

No. 2 ranking

Notre Dame is one of just two local teams that started off the year with a state ranking.

The other team is defending Class 2 state champion Scott City, which had the top ranking in Class 2.

"We have really high expectations for us this year," Young said. "We also have to realize that we're No. 2 and there is someone ahead of us and that we have something to play for every game."

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