Begel settles into role of staff ace
Published on -7/4/2012, 2:09 PM
By CONOR NICHOLL
Right-hander Joey Begel's start for the Hays Larks last Friday encapsulated his summer.
Begel, moved into the ace role as the Friday night starter after Shawn Lewick left for the Wichita Wingnuts, went six innings. He allowed three runs on six hits with two strikeouts against four walks.
After a three-run first inning, Begel settled down and put up five straight zeroes.
In his previous outing, Begel went six innings and allowed just one hit with four runs (zero earned).
However, he struck out four and walked six.
Overall, Begel is 1-1 with a 3.18 earned-run average in 17 innings. He has permitted only 10 hits and has held opponents to a .172 average, best among pitchers with at least two starts.
"When he gets himself in trouble, it's because of walks," Larks manager Frank Leo said. "When he gets ahead of hitters and takes care of business and finishes innings, he can pretty tough."
However, his walk rate of 6.88 per nine innings is worst among pitchers with at least two starts. Hays is 17-8 overall, 11-8 in Jayhawk League action and will play at Liberal tonight. Game time is 7 p.m.
"I just feel like I need to slow down and look at each batter as a batter instead of an inning or a game," Begel said.
At University of Illinois-Chicago this spring, Begel went 7-7 with a 5.38 earned-run average. He led the team in starts (16), wins (third-best in the Horizon League) and innings pitched (982âÑ3). He walked just 3.01 batters per nine innings.
Begel said he normally threw around 90 to 91 miles an hour and could touch 93. This summer, Begel arrived late because of a forearm issue that he said still feels "a little weird." On Friday, he was around 86 to 89 miles an hour and rarely touched 90.
"I just feel different out here than in the spring and hopefully I find myself and get my velo back up, start hitting spots," Begel said.
Even with the struggles, Begel is comfortable taking over as the Friday starter for Lewick.
"I am our Friday starter for school," he said. "I have been there for the past couple of years and I am cool with it. I like to be the guy and know that the other guy on the other team is going to be good."
Normally, the Larks pick up one or two players a season who redshirted or didn't play in the spring. Those players have varying degrees of success with Hays.
In the last couple of seasons, the most notable example is Joe Huwer, a catcher/outfielder who was one of the top hitters on the 2008 team that advanced to the final six in the National Baseball Congress World Series.
This summer, one of those is Brett Lang, a catcher/designated hitter from University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
Lang, whose father and uncle both played for Leo in the '80s, has enjoyed a great start to his season and earned more playing time.
"You just don't know," Leo said. "He is a freshman, really hasn't proven himself at the collegiate level yet. He must have worked pretty hard this spring on keeping his game sharp, because he has swung it well for us.
"He gives us the first base options, third base options and the catching options. It's some versatility that really helps us. It's probably been good for Brett to get back out and get some at-bats for sure," Leo added.
Lang carries a .349 average, third-best on the squad.
Lang has played in 19 games with 17 starts, and has six doubles, two off the team lead.
"You come in and there is no pressure on you," he said. "I guess it's just getting over that first hit, it's kind of like that big hump, once you get over that, you'll be fine."
Lang has the team's best average against right-handers (.362, 17-of-47). Lang has looked for fastballs early in the count and often jumped on those.
"You really don't want to miss those," he said. "If you get the right pitch, don't miss it and it works out well for me."
Reavis throwing well
Junior right-hander Colton Reavis, a pickup from Northwood University, has helped the back end of the bullpen.
Finding a closer was a question mark entering the summer after Michael Burchett saved 10 games, second-all time in the Larks' annals last season.
This year, Reavis has four saves, a 0.00 earned-run average and a 14-to-6 strikeout-to-walk rate in 101âÑ3 innings.
"Reavis is our go-to guy," Lang said. "I am good friends with him on the bus and I hang out with him a lot. He is a great guy."