The refreshing thing about Justin Northwest senior right-hander Doger Gilliland is that he knows exactly who is he is. He’s a solid high school baseball pitcher.
Anything beyond that is up for discussion. And that’s OK. He is comfortable in his space, because he’s still pitching and the Texans are still playing.
Deep down, the converted catcher never lost the itch to pitch. However, the need keep him behind the plate through his first three years with the program took priority.
When the opening for the 2017 season appeared, Gilliland approached the coaching staff about making the change. It worked. He’s now the No. 1 starting pitcher.
Never miss a local story.
“I’d been pitching until I was 12, then started catching,” Gilliland said. “I thought this year I might as well give it a shot, even though I hadn’t faced a live batter in four years. I started in fall ball and then worked in the winter with flat and long tossing. My fastball is 82-84 [mph] with a curveball and change. I know what I am.”
Matchups and weather will probably depend on what Northwest head coach John Herrick wants to do with Gilliland for the Class 5A Region I area playoff series against Birdville.
Gilliland could start Thursday’s opener for Northwest (24-9) at 7:30 p.m. at Birdville or pitch the second game on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Northwest. Either way, Gilliland likely would not be on the mound for a potential deciding third game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Northwest.
Whatever the expectations were for Gilliland when the season began in late February have been exceeded. The flexibility between Gilliland and senior left-hander Hunter Brill has made Herrick’s job a little easier and presented options. Gilliland is 7-1 with a 1.27 earned-run average.
“It really started clicking for him during the tournaments,” Herrick said. “He’s not worried about anything. He enjoys what he’s doing. And the fact that he’s been behind the plate for the last three years has really helped.”
Gilliland essentially has two pairs of eyes working for him. He can see what a pitcher sees. But he also sees what he saw as a catcher. That could be where a batter is setting up or where his hands are positioned on the bat, or even what to throw in any count.
“I know I’m not going to overpower people,” Gilliland said. “So I have to use the corners, and know what to throw and when to throw it. Coach Herrick has been calling pitches all season, and I think I’ve shaken him off two or three times. That shows how much he and I have been in sync.”
Gilliland struggled in this past Friday’s one-game bi-district playoff against Denison. He lasted only two innings. He moved to center field, Brill picked him up and the Texans rallied from an early 5-1 deficit to win 11-7. A program in the postseason for the first time since 2010 showed its nerves before it collected itself.
When the baseball season ends, so will Gilliland’s baseball career. He will move on to Texas A&M and study biomedical engineering.
“You look forward to every day and want to be ready,” he said. “This is going to be a great series against Birdville.”