May 23, 2018 07:45 PM
(ABC 6 News) – The Hayfield Vikings have a young baseball team this spring—but one of their youngest players has proven to be the difference-maker for the Vikings on the baseball diamond.
The Vikings, who only have one junior and one senior on their roster, earned a no.1 seed in the Subsection 1A West playoffs this year. Despite the Vikings’ youth, they’ve been led this season, literally and figuratively, by their leadoff hitter and “fearless” center fielder Easton Fritcher.
“(Easton will) put his body on the line for anything,” Hayfield head coach Kasey Krekling said. “You watch him in center field, even in practice, he’ll go diving and tumble for every ball. He’s 100% to the wall, all the time.”
“I’m very competitive and I don’t like losing,” Fritcher said. “I feel like if I try my hardest, they’ll try their hardest. I’m doing my family proud, myself proud, so I’m going out there with 110 (percent).”
Fritcher isn’t afraid, and his talent speaks volumes—but he’s not a normal high school baseball player.
“His ceiling is one of the highest I’ve probably ever coached,” Krekling said. “It could be as high as Division I baseball someday because he is that kind of athlete, he’s that kind of player, and he puts that much time commitment into baseball.”
Fritcher may play high school baseball, but he’s technically not even a high school student yet—Fritcher is currently finishing up eighth grade.
“The first at-bat of his varsity career, this year he led off with a triple to the fence here, which is 345 feet, and we’re like ‘oof, that’s obviously not a normal 8th grader’,” Krekling recalled.
Despite his middle school standing, Fritcher has plenty of baseball experience (Krekling says he plays like a “polished veteran”). Throughout the year, Fritcher plays for and practices with the Minnesota Blizzard travel baseball team during the fall, winter, and summer.
“He’s played a lot of baseball around the country against some of the best players in the country, so he was well prepared for this, and he’s showing it,” Krekling said.
Fritcher said he will play legion baseball during the summer season in Hayfield, and said travel baseball has made him a better varsity baseball player but notes that varsity pitching (speed, movement, the location of pitches) are better at the high school level.
“I think it’s preparing me for varsity because of the level they play and how they play,” Fritcher, who has played in tournaments and games in Las Vegas, Arizona, Utah, and California among other places, said. “I kind of learn off of them.”
This spring for the Vikings, in the batter’s box, through Wednesday, Fritcher leads Hayfield in batting average (.450), on-base percentage (.566), triples (6), runs batted in (18) and runs scored (25).
“He makes adjustments,” Krekling said. “Throughout the game, he may get beat on one pitch; he won’t get on that same pitch again. He makes adjustments in the box from pitch to pitch, barrels up a lot of balls, puts them in play and uses his great speed.”
Fritcher also played for the Hayfield varsity boys’ basketball season this past winter, but baseball is his favorite sport—he loves the game, and he’s a student of the game as well.
“(Houston Astros second-baseman and 2017 American League MVP) Jose Altuve, he swings 0-0 a lot, because that’s probably the best pitch you’ll see, so that’s my mindset when I’m up at the plate,” Fritcher said.
Fritcher, who bats and throws left-handed, is also a dynamic pitcher. As one of Hayfield’s top starting pitchers this season, Fritcher has a 4-1 record with a 2.40 earned-run-average (ERA).
“Usually before I pitch, I take deep breaths and kind of calm myself,” Fritcher said about his approach on the mound. “I just throw strikes because I know I have a good defense behind me and they’ll make the plays they need to make.”
Fritcher trusts his Hayfield teammates, and he says his play feeds off of his teammates. As long as the Vikings are winning, it’s “all good” in Hayfield for Fritcher.
“I love playing baseball,” Fritcher said. “It doesn’t matter where I am, I just love playing baseball.”
Fritcher and the Vikings have a first-round bye in the Subsection playoffs. The Vikings will host either United South Central or Bethlehem Academy in their playoff opener on Saturday at 10 a.m. in Austin.
Updated: May 23, 2018 07:45 PM
Created: May 23, 2018 04:57 PM
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