PDT Sports Writer
WHEELERSBURG — Michael Estep wanted to prepare his Wheelersburg ball club Tuesday for Sam Donko, the guy they will face in Thursday’s Division III State Semifinal, without using any current arms.
That answer came in the form of former Pirate Adam Wamsley, who dropped in to serve as that simulated arm. Other than a wild pitch that caught the foot of senior Clay Massie, it was business as usual for the team as they prepare for their fourth-straight trip to the state championships and fifth in six seasons.
“Having Adam come back out and throw to us today, I think, always dials up the intensity because when Adam comes around a ball field, he just ratchets up everybody’s energy level,” Estep said. “To still have him to be able to come out and be competitive for us on the mound with what we have for us as far as the challenge of Sam Donko, I know that (for) our guys it was good for them to see what a little bit of velocity and what that slider is like.”
Donko has drawn comparisons to who Estep will hand the ball to Thursday in senior Derek Moore. One thing Moore has adjusted to on the mound this year is getting used to batters attack the ball early in the count.
When asked if he wants to apply the same tactics against Donko, he felt the course of the game will dictate whether his hitters will be swinging early or try to make Donko pitch.
“From what we’ve gathered, he’s similar to Derek in that he pounds the strike zone,” Estep said. “I think with that type of challenge on the mound, you can’t just go up there and take pitch after pitch and get down in the count because they’re going to be able to do things and throw multiple pitches in different counts, elevate balls, move balls down and change our eye level so much that for high school kids that sometimes aren’t mentally tough enough to be able to transition from one pitch to the next, sometimes going up and swinging early in the count is exactly what you want to do.
“I think if you can take him out of a comfort level of being able to just go up there and throw first-pitch strikes every time, that will be in our advantage. I’m sure their kids are probably thinking the same thing so I think it’s just a matter of getting the right pitches in the right zones, to say that you’re going to go up and take away every part of the plate against an arm like this is going to be very difficult.”
Along with the simulated batting practice, Estep conducted practice with as many situations his team could face when they face the Fighting Irish. Whatever they were not able to accomplish during Monday’s practice was worked on during Tuesday’s session.
“We just gone back over the things that we cover periodically throughout the year, definitely a bunch at the beginning,” Estep said. “But here, throughout the season with limited practice time, you have to pick and choose on each day because you don’t want to keep them out there too long.”
It was the final practice at home for six seniors — Moore, Massie, Ben Arnold, Derek Arthur, Zach Brown and Michael Diddle.
The team will leave for Columbus early Wednesday and look to keep the same schedule that helped them reach last year’s state championship. That may include a practice at Dublin Coffman High School.
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.