MINFORD — All too often, high school pitchers are worried about striking hitters out.
Ethan Lauder is not one of those pitchers.
Minford’s senior ace proudly admits you won’t find many strikeouts on his resume. Instead, you’ll find outs … and a full repertoire at his disposal when it comes to recording them.
As expected, Lauder has been an imperative piece to the Falcons’ puzzle this season. The group sits at 11-1 overall with an 8-1 mark in the Southern Ohio Conference.
The team’s 11th win came on the back of Lauder’s pitching gem this past Wednesday in a 5-3 win over Wheelersburg. It was a win that screams vintage Lauder … he had just two punchouts but held one of the conference’s best offenses to two earned runs on nine hits.
“I focus on pounding the zone. I don’t like to walk batters so I just try to throw strikes, no matter what and let my defense work,” Lauder said. “If you ask me, I have the best defense in the state. That’s a real confidence booster for a pitcher like me. I don’t get a lot of strikeouts. I let the defense work.”
Wednesday night’s game was a big stage; a platform that Lauder is more than accustomed to.
After helping last year’s team win a Division III regional title and post a final overall record of 24-3, Lauder has seen his fair share of the limelight. So, Wednesday was a breeze.
He’s put a system in place for those types of situations.
“I just try to take a deep breath, step off the mound if I have to and look at my guys,” Lauder said of pressure-filled moments. “I know they got my back and I’ve got theirs. We play for the guy beside us. I just try to keep calm, especially in big-game situations. You just have to bear down.”
While no moment is too big for Lauder, he understands that every single night in conference play represents a sizable challenge. There are no nights off in the SOC II, no matter the foe.
“It’s tough. You have to have three or four good pitchers to be able to compete in the SOC,” Lauder said. “We do this year, thankfully. Our conference is no slouch. It’s always a battle each night. But it’s fun. It’s a lot of fun. Baseball … there’s nothing better.”
That last sentence embodies Lauder as a player. Some play for the glory, some play for the newspaper clips. Lauder plays for the love of the game.
“It’s the team aspect. I love it, and I love being out there on the mound with the ball in my hands in big games,” Lauder said. “You live for those moments. Being out here with my boys, that means the world to me.”
To get to where they want to be, the Falcons still have 11 regular season games remaining — including two dates with Waverly and West, alongside contests against Ironton, Whiteoak and Adena.
But with Lauder leading the charge, alongside the likes of Elijah Vogelsong, Luke Lindamood, Reid Shultz, Darius Jordan, Brayden Davis, etc., the right-hander has no doubts his team will return to the exact level it saw its season end last year.
And this go-around will be much different from the last — an 11-0 loss to Coldwater in a Division III state semifinal.
“I definitely expect an SOC title again this year,” Lauder said. “We’re just trying to win back-to-back [titles]. But we can’t stop there. We have to crank it up during the tournament and fine-tune things. Our goal is to be right back [in the] state [semifinals] and when we get there, we’re going to actually compete. We’re comfortable with that this year and we’ll be ready to go.”