For any long playoff run, a team needs its go-to players to perform well. And typically, a team will need some role players to step up and provide surprise contributions. For Legacy baseball, the usual suspects have done their part, and the latest to fill the role of unlikely hero was Kade Strowd.
The sophomore pitcher is a big reason the Broncos survived another week in the 4A Region II playoffs after getting by district rivals Red Oak 2-1 in a best-of-three series.
Unlike their previous two series, where Legacy swept opponents in consecutive games, the Broncos were taken to a third and deciding game. That meant head coach David Walden had to extend his pitching rotation beyond regular duo Cole Hearrean and Blake Wilson.
Following some intrasquad practice during the week, Walden decided that Strowd would probably be the guy, if needed. After Red Oak took Game 2 in extra innings on Friday to force Game 3, Walden informed Strowd he would indeed start on Saturday.
“Surprised, terrified, just nervous,” Strowd said after receiving the news. “But I knew I had a good team that would back me up with everything that I did. As long as I tried my hardest, that’s all they cared about.”
Strowd spent most of the year on the JV roster, having pitched several innings for the Broncos in varsity tournament games early in the season.
Game 1 winner and first baseman Hearrean had confidence in Strowd from seeing him practice all year, but knew this was a big stage.
“I knew he was capable of doing it,” Hearrean said. “I just didn’t know if the nerves were going to get to him. He did what he needed to do. He threw really well. That’s good to know for the future.”
Strowd delivered five shutout innings, allowing four hits while striking out four. He explained that he was able to calm the nerves pretty early in the contest.
“Probably the first out, when they hit a ground ball back to me,” he said. “I just started to calm down after I got that first out. I figured if I could just work my way through the game slowly and take it pitch-by-pitch [I’d be fine.]”
Walden confessed that he had a disaster plan in place, expecting to use a number of arms in what could turn into a high scoring affair, but never needed it because of Strowd’s performance.
“We had no idea how it would play out,” Walden said. “We felt like they were pretty pitched out as well. We thought it could be a high-scoring game and that we were going to have to give [Strowd] a lot of rope and have a lot of other guys ready. But then to go out there and absolutely dominate like he did, it was an incredible surprise. Not that he doesn’t have talent, but just because we hadn’t seen him in that situation.”
Hearrean closed out the game by notching the final six outs – this after racking up 12 strikeouts in a Game 1 victory on Thursday – when he also had a three-run homer and a pair of doubles at the plate. The senior is among those aforementioned go-to players.
“I think he’s pretty much been doing what he’s done all year,” Walden said. “I feel like he really likes to hit as much as he likes to pitch. In Game 2, he had three of the toughest defensive plays at first base I’ve ever seen. There was a line drive that he dove and caught about six inches off the ground. They hit two rockets at him that took bad hops and he caught them both. I just think he’s really playing great baseball. He’s done it all year long.”
The Broncos also got important hitting contributions from the bottom part of the order again. Garrett Bell and Aaron Johns had important hits in a tightly contested series that ultimately ended 10-5 on aggregate runs, the last two games ending in 2-1 and 1-0 scores
“Playoffs are a lot more intense,” Hearrean added. “I think everybody, not just me, has stepped up their game in the playoffs.”