Shut ‘Em Down: Cathedral pitching staff finds groove, delivers shutouts
NATCHEZ — The Cathedral baseball team is outscoring district opponents 51-0 in 2015.
Since losing 6-4 at Franklin County on March 20, the Green Wave have blanked six of their last eight opponents. Ace pitcher Quinton Logan and Sam Parker have combined for five straight shutout victories during that span. Meanwhile Gabe Smith has emerged as a vital piece of the rotation, filling up the zone with strikes and earning a victory against Porter’s Chapel Saturday.
To simplify the recent dominance from the mound over the last few weeks, all three pitchers are convinced it was a result of trust.
“There was a lot of hype to begin the year,” Parker said. “We hear all of that, but really, we had to come together as a team before anything could happen. It’s more of a team thing than anything.”
Logan, who signed to play for Hinds Community College, felt the pressure mounting as the season began. Against Franklin County, playing in his first home game as a Cathedral pitcher, Logan struggled, walking eight batters in the win.
“It was my first home game, and it was nerve racking,” Logan said. “People out there are trying to do see if I’m going to do good. I was doing too much. I’ve just been trying to be myself these past few games.”
Since his rocky start, he’s settled down, dismissed the hype and in his own words, “played ball.” Logan, who is 6-0 on the mound for Cathedral this year, started dominating the opposition. Logan struck out 14 in five innings pitched against Enterprise, struck out 14 in six innings pitched against Monterey, struck out eight in three innings pitched against Enterprise and struck out 13 in five innings pitched against Bogue Chitto. In those last 19 innings pitched, Logan has struck out 49 batters, averaging more than two strikeouts an inning.
“Quinton is a strikeout pitcher, and so is Sam,” Cathedral head coach Craig Beesley said. “We knew we were going to be good on the mound. I feel comfortable putting six guys on the mound, actually, but we’re riding them and Gabe right now.”
Parker’s evolution as a pitcher started last year, as he pitched and worked out on his own during the offseason. The added growth spurt has helped his velocity, and Parker is coming off back-to-back shutout wins in which he threw 11 combined strikeouts.
“I’ve grown a lot since last year, and I’ve been starting to fill the strike zone up with more with strikes, trusting my defense a little more,” Parker said.
Rounding out the rotation this season is the tall, lanky Smith, who is called “Big Swole” by his teammates. Coming off of a season where he contributed in spots as a relief pitcher, Smith has earned the third spot in the rotation this season by doing what Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers instructed Green Bay fans to do last season — “R-E-L-A-X.”
“It’s all about relaxing,” Smith said. “Last year, I tried to do too much. I just play this year.”
Smith has gone 2-1 in his last three outings. The loss he suffered was a 4-0 loss to MHSAA 5A club Warren Central, a game in which Beesley said Smith pitched extremely well and didn’t give up runs until the fifth inning.
“Gabe has that mentality of a pitcher,” Beesley said. “He wants the ball in tough situations, and he’s not afraid of any situation. He reminds me of Thomas (Garrity) with his fearless mentality.”
Ultimately, Smith, Parker and Logan attributed their success this season to muting outside noises and going back to the basics of baseball. All three pitchers take pride in shutting out opponents, and deep down, they know for that to continue they simply need to “play ball.”