He nitpicks, he dips and he doodles. He gets outs. And he gets wins. That’s about all that Heath Wasylow has done for the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High baseball team over the past two seasons.
He picks the corners with a sinking fastball and a changeup. He doesn’t notch a lot of strikeouts. He induces a lot of ground-ball outs. And he just so happens to have pin-point control, hardly ever walking a batter — five through all of last season, three in three starts, along with a save this season.
"I don’t like to see my teammates standing around," chuckled the Falcon senior right-handed pitcher of letting his teammates do the dirty work, while he produces victories for D-R with his pitching, six last season, three thus far in 2006.
With a baseball scholarship to Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire in his back pocket, Wasylow has helped D-R win six of its first seven games this season, four of them in the South Coast Conference, where they are running neck and neck with defending champion Seekonk (which they visit today) and Apponequet for first place.
Thus far this season, Wasylow beat Taunton 6-2, beat Greater New Bedford 9-0 and Bourne 13-3. All he did last year was compile a 6-2 record with a 1.72 earned run average, totaling 57 strikeouts in 57 innings of work. Even more impressive than his beyond-belief low total of bases on balls, foes batted just .223 against him.
"He was not a dominant pitcher," related D-R coach Bill Cuthbertson of Wasylow’s freshman and sophomore seasons. "He was pretty much a jayvee pitchers, but he got bigger and stronger last year and he kind of blossomed.
"His mechanics are sound and his ball has a lot of movement. He’s not an overpowering type of pitcher — he keeps the ball alive and he gets ground ball outs."
Wasylow also quarterbacks the Falcon football team and shoots the ball around for the D-R basketball team, being sort of an albatross in this day and age of sports specialization when athletes concentrate on just one or two sports year-round.
"I think that’s kind of helped me too," said Wasylow of his tri-sportism. "I enjoy all three sports and I’ve kept at all three. Some kids might just play football and do weight training all year round, or play soccer during the fall, then indoors and during the spring and summer.
"I’ve been lucky to play all football, basketball and baseball, I’ve had a pretty good career. Baseball’s been more in my blood, though."
Wasylow believes it is in his genetic makeup too, that has enabled him to throw a baseball with such accuracy — his dad Steve played baseball at Taunton High, his uncle Kyle Wasylow pitched at Massasoit CC.
Between his sophomore and junior year, Wasylow added some weight, some strength and began to develop as a pitcher while throwing for Seekonk’s American Legion Post 212 team — with Seekonk High ace Ryan George, whom he went to the hill against in Monday’s titanic SCC contest.
"Throwing always kind of came as natural to me," said Wasylow. "In my sophomore year, I was kind of decent, but I wasn’t a top-level pitcher.
"I think some of the success that I had last year, as a junior was because I had a good year at quarterback for the football team. I developed a lot of confidence. You beat some kids on the football field in the SCC games, then you face them again on the baseball field and you feel that you can beat them there too."
Wasylow understood the value of getting the first batter of each inning out and not giving up free passes to first base, standard baseball lore for pitchers at any level. "I’m a huge Red Sox fan too and I watch a lot of games. I watch what pitchers throw in situations, how they react.
"I’ve found that it’s better just to get outs rather than try to strike everybody out. I study a lot of the hitters that I face and know what to throw. Like when I’m pitching against a good team, I know who the good hitters are and throw pitches that they have a hard time hitting and mix up my speeds."
Wasylow has a fastball which has been clocked at 89 miles per hour. He threw a lot of fastballs as a junior, but has since learned that breaking ball pitches and off-speed pitches can fool batters many a time.
He throws a nice changeup and an overhand curveball. "My fastball tails a lot," said Wasylow of his very deceptive pitch. "To a right-handed batter, it sinks.
"And my changeup is effective too, it’s hard to pick up. I keep my arm speed the same (as throwing a fastball), but it’s about 10 miles slower."
And quite often when Wasylow has batters in the hole, facing an 0-and-2 count for example, he’ll set them up by throwing his curveball. "I’ll throw it out of the strike zone and make them chase it," said Wasylow. "I can get a lot of guys out with it," or at least, make batters only get a slice of the ball and that generally results in an infield roller.
"This year, my speed is a lot better, but it’s still not over-powering," said Wasylow, who gets a lot of his upper body strength by working at Seekonk Supply, a plumbing supplies firm. "I think back and some of the reason that I’ve always had pretty good control was that when I was kid, we had a tire hanging from a tree in the backyard.
"So I just kept throwing and throwing, trying to get the baseball through the tire. That made me work on my location, worked on where I throw to spots."
PETER GOBIS can be reached at 508-236-0375 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org