Santa Fe pitcher's offspeed bothers Oran baseball team's hitters

Thursday, May 31, 2012
Oran baserunner Alex Heuring celebrates as he crosses home plate to score while Santa Fe catcher Chad Tieman looks on during the first inning of their Class 1 state semifinal Wednesday in Springfield, Mo. (ADAM VOGLER)

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Santa Fe ace Andrew Curry entered his start against Oran in the Class 1 semifinals with an 11-0 record and a 0.93 ERA.

He had struck out 89 batters and walked just 10 over 60 2/3 innings.

So when the Eagles scored two runs on three hits off the left-hander in the bottom of the first inning to take a 2-1 lead, Oran coach Mitch Wood hoped it meant the hype surrounding Curry was overblown.

"It was huge for us," Wood said. "I thought we'd be OK because I'd heard a lot about how good this kid was and like I said, the first inning he didn't show that. He didn't look near as good the first inning or sharp. We hit fastballs. We did some things we're supposed to do."

Curry said he wasn't bothered by giving up the lead his team just had handed him.

Oran pitcher Dalton Elfrink fields a bunt from Santa Fe shortstop Wyatt Wilkinson during the first inning Wednesday.

"I knew our bats could help us out, and that happened to me in the quarterfinal game," he said. "They got up two runs in the first inning, and we came back and got some more runs."

Curry was quick to realize the same thing the Eagles' hitters had -- that his fastball could be hit.

"The first inning he didn't throw offspeed much, and we were drilling it," Wood said. "The rest of the innings, he kept us off balance. He did a great job of in-and-out, speed and all that stuff. He did a real good job."

The phrase "off balance" was the most used following Curry's eight-inning win over the Eagles.

"Just keep them off balance with the curveball and changeup, and just use those two pitches to get my fastball to work, look faster," Curry said. "I seen that they were looking for fastballs, so I started changing it up."

The Eagles recorded just two hits after the first inning.

"He's definitely a junk-ball thrower," Santa Fe coach Josh Fisher said. "However he's very good at changing speeds and mixing it up for us. That's his game. We tell him first, second inning, make sure you get your fastball working, then work with your other stuff. Get yourself warm, get yourself dialed in."

Curry, a 6-foot-4 junior, threw 93 pitches, including 65 strikes. He struck out eight and walked two.

"He actually was not on his 'A' game today," Fisher said. "He'd vouch for it. He came out a little flat. It usually takes him two or three innings to really get dialed in. By the time he was throwing in that seventh and eighth inning, he was throwing much better."

Curry also had to pitch around three errors made by his defense, including one that allowed Alex Heuring to score an unearned run in the first inning.

"When we put the ball in play, good things were happening," Heuring said. "We just quit, and it really came back to bite us. We had a few chances, but it's baseball. You can't help that sometimes."

Oran leadoff batter Kody Moore was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts against Curry. He acknowledged Curry's offspeed pitches were good, but he bristled at the idea that they should have prevented Oran's offense from producing.

"He still threw fastballs to everybody, and we're a fastball-hitting team," Moore said. "We had no excuse for losing today. We should've won that game."

Oran was held to two runs or fewer for just the fifth time this season.

"We just didn't hit the ball today," Moore said. "This was one of our worst hitting games of the year, and it is just a bad time to have it."

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