Goss: Wood a friend to Trevor Henderson-like pitchers
By Dick Goss email@example.com July 10, 2013 7:48PM
Plainfield South's Trevor Henderson | File photo
Updated: August 12, 2013 11:33AM
Back in the day, wood bats were it.
Whether you played Little League, Pony League, high school, college or pro baseball, you swung the lumber.
When you faced high-caliber pitchers, you almost had to meet the ball solidly to get a base hit.
Then came the metal bats on all levels except pro, and the game changed. Batting averages jumped. Balls hit off the handle or off the end of the bat were more likely to fall, and balls hit well were flying into the gaps and over the fence.
A couple of years ago, bats that are something between metal and wood in terms of their liveliness began being used, and the decrease in offense on college and high school levels was noticeable.
Still, wood remains a pitcher’s best friend, next to a 6-4-3 double play. Summer wood bat leagues for college players have grown in recent years. If you’re going to hit with wood when you become a pro, why not get accustomed to it?
The idea also has arrived on the high school level. I was eager to see some games this week in the Route 59 Wooden-Bat Tournament. The assumption was teams would be offensively challenged unless pitchers were wild and defenses were generous. That proved true.
Yorkville, Plainfield South and Plainfield East all finished 2-1 in their pool. Yorkville was the pool champion based on allowing four runs total in three games. South allowed six and East 11. You almost felt sorry for the kids in the batter’s box.
“I like it (pitching to wood),” South senior left-hander Trevor Henderson said. “There’s not much pop when they hit it. Bloops don’t fall in and groundballs that aren’t hit hard don’t get through the infield.”
There was not much pop in the spring, either, when hitters faced Henderson. The Herald-News All-Area selection finished 7-1 with a 0.95 ERA in 58⅔ innings, struck out 90 and walked 20. Imagine if he had pitched to wood all spring.
“I didn’t change anything and I don’t change anything no matter what bat they’re using,” Henderson said Tuesday after pitching the Cougars past Metea Valley 3-1. “When you change things mentally, that’s when you start messing up.”
Henderson, with his nasty breaking ball confounding hitters, allowed no hits but left after uncharacteristically walking the first three batters in the sixth inning.
“Trevor did not have his best game,” South coach Phil Bodine said. “He didn’t have his best stuff. All summer he has been trying to show everything he’s got to everyone, and I think his arm is a little tired.”
Henderson knew he was working on a no-hitter and said, “In the sixth inning, I was trying to do too good. I didn’t give up any hits, but I gave up too many walks.”
The walks came on long counts and on pitches that barely missed. Still, allowing that to happen is not Henderson’s usual M.O. Through five innings, he had walked one and hit one while striking out eight.
Any pitcher gravitating toward NCAA Division I baseball and perhaps to the pros some day is going to stay busy and throw a lot.
“I did the Area Code Games this summer and a couple of showcases, and I’ve been pitching here (with South),” said Henderson, whose fastball averages in the mid-80s (mph) with a high of 88. “In the fall, I am going to pitch for the Cincinnati Reds Scout Team. That will be fun, and tough. The guys I’ll be facing were picked from all over the country. They all can hit with wood or anything, and they can run.”
Henderson said he’s scheduled to visit Kansas and Creighton this weekend, and he has other Division I offers to ponder. He hopes to choose a school by the end of July.
What about the Major League Baseball Draft next June?
“Right now, my plan is to go to college and get better there,” he said. “I probably would have to be drafted very high to decide to go into pro ball right away, and that isn’t likely to happen. But I do want to play pro ball some day.”
One thing he wants from his senior season at South next spring is the opportunity to swing the bat on occasion.
“I’ve been getting a chance to hit some this summer,” he said. “I just don’t like hitting when I’m pitching.”
He hasn’t had much experience at all hitting with wood. Perhaps symbolically, on the first cut he took in South’s final pool-play game against Yorkville, Henderson let go of the bat and it flew completely over the first-base dugout.
Wood is fine as long as you’re pitching to it. Hitters prefer a weapon with more pop.