LANDIS — Aaron Bare? Who is Aaron Bare?
Glad you asked.
He’s the lean South Rowan right-hander who threw himself into his work Friday night, only to have his work thrown him back.
He’s the hard-luck senior with the 2-4 record who nearly pitched the Cinderella Raiders past top-seeded Carson in the NPC title match. He’s the close-but-no-cigar kid with nothing more than a fastball/curveball arsenal who befuddled the favored Cougars until the game’s final pitch — a 3-2 fastball that produced the only earned run he allowed.
“He’s the one,” said none other than Eric Tyler, South’s Division I-bound backstop, “who gave us a chance to win. He competed his tail off tonight. Yeah, he’s been sharper some nights, but he’s never competed like this before. He was up, he was down, but he never stopped, never shied away. That’s how you put your team in position to win.”
For 62/3 innings Bare demonstrated how pitching is often more art than science. He painted corners with a heater that closely resembled a luke-warmer. It wasn’t like you had to learn Braille to hit his fastball, but it was effective.
When the landscape called for a sweeping change, Bare induced popups with a curve that served strictly as a show pitch, teasing Carson’s murderous lineup into swings it wished it could have back.
“The main thing for me was to keep the ball low in the strike zone,” he said. “Nothing up. I did that better tonight than I’ve done in any other game.”
Hit the rewind button and go back to March 15, when Bare’s season seemed to bottom out in against Carson. The Cougars sprayed line drives around the park and danced all over him in a 12-0 victory.
“The first time we saw him we hit it all over the place,” said veteran Carson coach Chris Cauble. “The difference tonight, he was getting his curveball over for strikes. That curveball made his fastball look faster.”
Bare’s curve was consistently 8-10 miles-per-hour slower than his fastball, and that — mathematically, artistically or scientifically — created problems for Carson.
“He’s the type of pitcher who has to use his curveball enough so that hitters are trying to time it up,” said South coach Thad Chrismon. “He can throw it for a strike. He can throw it behind in the count. And than makes his fastball seem sneaky. That’s how he he catches you. It’s pitching backwards, but that’s what he does.”
Bare did it very well last night, though Carson reached him for unearned runs in each of the first two innings. The Raiders’ infield had more holes than the President’s tax plan, committing three errors before Bare recorded the first out in last of the second.
“There might have been some pre-game jitters,” he confessed. “I don’t know. It was a slow start for everyone. I know it took me a while to find the strike zone. Eventually I settled in and pitched my game.”
Which is what?
“Doing whatever is best for the team,” he answered.
Bare’s final line doesn’t jump off the page: four strikeouts, five walks and five hits allowed, all of them singles. But Tyler, Cauble and many in the lively crowd were nonetheless impressed.
“He was a bulldog out there,” Tyler said. “He believed he could win.”
That dream wasn’t administered last rites until Carson’s Dylan Carpenter shot a two-out, run-scoring single into center field on the game’s final pitch. He came that close to prevailing.
“The whole game was that close,” Chrismon said. “But knowing what (Bare) did, we can live with the result. The knock against us was we didn’t have enough pitching to win the tournament. I hope everybody, especially our guys, feel good about what we did here.”