Larks' Reavis can be wild, but efficient
Published on -7/28/2012, 10:07 PM
By CONOR NICHOLL
When he enters a contest, Hays Larks closer Colton Reavis will sometimes throw a few pitches out of the strike zone, or possibly to the screen behind home plate.
"I don't exactly know where it is going," Reavis said. "During my warmup pitches, I just try to let it go as hard as I can and wherever it goes, I really don't care."
However, once a batter steps in the box, Reavis still throws as hard as he can -- mainly with his four-seam fastball. This time, Reavis consistently throws strikes. The routine and Reavis' velocity have helped him become a potential record-setting closer this summer.
"It's not always intentional, but I have had catchers tell me, 'It's good, it's effective,' " Reavis said of the warmups. "(Batters) know that it might hit them. They change their approach a little bit. I tend to do it every now and then.
"I throw one or two pitches back there and then I will get the dugout chirping a little bit saying, 'He is wild and make him throw a strike,' " he added. "Then, they will get in there and then I will throw a strike. It's definitely a mind game."
Reavis' effective wildness has helped him post a 1-0 record and a 0.00 earned-run average in 16 appearances for Hays. He has pitched 18.1 innings and permitted just four hits and two unearned runs with a 27/8 strikeout to walk rate and .068 opponents' batting average. His seven saves are tied for eighth on the all-time Larks list.
Reavis, a Paris, Tex. native from Northwood (Tex.) University, could become the first pitcher in Larks annals to never allow an earned run in a season. Hays shortstop Elvin Rodriguez said only one pitcher, from El Dorado, had velocity comparable to Reavis this summer.
Reavis estimates he throws the four-seam fastball 85 percent of the time. Catcher Brett Lang said it was closer to 95 to 96 percent. Reavis was uncertain how hard he threw, but estimated his fastball to hit low-90s.
"We call him 'Gunslinger' for a reason," Lang said. "I like to make fun of him and saying that he only has one pitch, that being a fastball. He doesn't really take too kindly to that. He claims that he has a curveball, and a slider or a splitter, but I have never seen it."
The current record is 0.48 by Stephen Marek in 2004. Just six pitchers have an ERA under 1.00 in Larks' history. On Monday, Hays (29-11) will face Greeley (Colo.) Sox in the first round of the National Baseball Congress World Series at Wichita's Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
"You can't help but want to put a guy in there who hasn't given up a run this season," pitching coach Keith Harper said. "It's unheard of. But in the right situations, he has pitched well enough to get out of those situations where runs could have scored. His velocity definitely is the key. He has a good breaking pitch if he needs it, but his velocity is pretty good."
Reavis first closed for two years at NCAA Division I University of Texas-San Antonio, but transferred to NAIA Northwood this past spring and pitched sparingly.
"It had to do a lot with hours at school, I didn't have quite enough hours to compete in the spring, so I transferred so I could play last semester," Reavis said.
Reavis was planning on heading home and just working a summer job. However, Rodriguez, in his third season as the Larks' shortstop, talked to Reavis in May and said the program needed pitching. Rodriguez, Reavis and reliever Jason Heflin came from Northwood to the Larks. At the start of the season, Larks manager Frank Leo labeled closer a question mark after Michael Burchett saved 10 games and posted a 1.15 ERA last year.
Other players told Reavis about Burchett, but Reavis never felt pressure to replace or match Burchett's numbers. Reavis was in the mix for closer at the start of the summer and felt the position was his in midseason.
"It's a little bit different when he gets on the mound," Harper, who also catches bullpen sessions, said. "It gets there a little quicker, and I knew we had something special. ... It's explosive. It's legit. I don't like having to catch those, but when I see one like that, my eyes light up, and it wasn't hard to figure who our closer was going to be."
While the four-seam fastball has produced a team-high 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings, Reavis credited the defense for helping him navigate through several jams.
"He is as advertised," Leo said. "He hasn't let us down. He is so poised out there. You have got to have ice in your veins when you are the closer. He looks very relaxed out there. He has went to 3-2 counts a couple times and still came back and made pitches when he needed to."
Generally, Reavis' key pitches have come with the fastball. While some pitchers use a two-seam fastball for sink and movement, Reavis stays with the one pitch.
"Tend to throw my two-seam over everyone's head or at the batter, so I don't throw it too much, not have as much control over it," he said.
Reavis said the pitch "is pretty straight most of the time," but the velocity and the warmup sessions help to keep the batters off balance. Through two months, it's produced a near-perfect season.
"In a summer league, with wood bats, it's fine, but with a little bit different competition, I wouldn't just use the fastball," he said. "I really live and die with the fastball. On out pitches, on 0-2 counts or whatever, or whenever I need a strikeout, I will go to something else. I usually go for the fastball, try and strike people out."