Having a senior step onto the mound in his first varsity baseball season can create plenty of pressure, but Keller’s Jack Butzer is wearing it well.
The left-handed Butzer has shown that he’s ready for the stage that a program such as Keller’s can provide.
Although it’s his first year on the varsity roster, the experience gained in his previous baseball history is paying dividends for the Indians.
Butzer picked up his second win (with no losses) last week over Keller Central in a 3-0 shutout.
He admitted that when he started playing in the first year of kid-pitch baseball, he wanted to throw the ball – like every other little leaguer.
“Whoever could throw strikes would do it,” he said of the youth pitching experience.
But his work on JV and with the Arlington A’s club team have given him one of the most important skills of a trusted pitcher.
It’s staying mentally focused when things don’t go your way.
“When I step on the field, I lock in and get focused on the game,” Butzer said, noting he doesn’t have any superstitions. “I just refocus after giving up a hit. You can’t get frustrated. Just because they get on, doesn’t mean he’s going to score. I just focus on the next batter. I have one of the best defenses in the district. I just have to put the ball over and let the defense make a play.”
His ability to hit his spots is the other key ingredient for Butzer.
He said his best pitches are a fastball and changeup – when he’s hitting his spots. His speed is registering in the low 80s.
Full counts are the key point for a pitcher to hit those spots, and Butzer said his focus is to hit the spot more so than just getting the ball into the strike zone.
“If they hit a ball in the gap, it’s just as bad as walking him,” he said. “It’s important to keep in it mentally each pitch and not let the situation get to your head.”
What he’s doing is working, too. In 19 innings of work, Butzer has rendered just a 2.00 ERA and about 25 strikeouts during the district schedule thus far.
“I’m pretty happy with where I am,” Butzer said after the complete-game shutout of Central.
But as the district schedule will still bring Keller Timber Creek, Abilene and Keller Fossil Ridge, the pressure could continue to mount.
“I think it (the coming stretch of top district competition) excites us more than weighs us down,” Butzer said.
“Coach (Rob) Stramp expects for me and Tyler (Thomas) to go deep into a game, giving up little to no runs,” Butzer said. “There are high expectations.”
One of eight seniors, Butzer said he didn’t take long to gel with his teammates.
The goal, though, is to just get a win every time he steps out onto the field.
“If the team gets one run, I want to make sure I don’t give up a run,” he said.
Keller lost a lot of seniors last year, and followers might have lowered expectations for this season. Not the Indians.
“We believe we can beat anyone. A lot of people didn’t think we’d be as good this season, but we can definitely do as well as last year,” Butzer said.