Prep baseball: Carson’s Misenheimer signs with Montreat
By Mike London
CHINA GROVE ó At the request of coach Chris Cauble, Carson’s Will Misenheimer put down his bat and became a pitcher.
Misenheimer’s first love was hitting so it was a lot to ask, but his career change worked out better than anyone anticipated.
The tall right-hander with the quirky delivery recently signed with Montreat, becoming the first Cougar baseball player to ink with a four-year college.
“I think Will led our jayvee team in hitting as a sophomore,” Cauble said. “He was just this lanky kid. Didn’t pitch a whole lot.”
Cauble studied Misenheimer as he threw a standard bullpen session prior to his junior season.
Not bad. Not good.
“Will was just average coming over the top,” Cauble said. “We had five or six more arms just like him.”
Then Cauble was struck by a lightning bolt of inspiration and persuaded Misenheimer to attempt something radical.
“Here’s how it happened,” Misenheimer said. “Cauble watched me throw, and he said, ‘That’s all well and good, but, hey, let’s try this.’ ”
Cauble had Misenheimer try an extreme sidearm delivery, and on that day, Misenheimer switched from regular guy to submariner.
Back in Cauble’s high school days in the 1980s, Major League bullpens were filled with sneaky submarine guys like Dan Quisenberry, Kent Tekulve and Gene Garber. They drove hitters crazy.
Now managers have fallen in love with conventional closers who throw heat, but Cauble obviously believes there’s still a place in the game for guile and stealth.
“Pitching with that motion felt good,” Misenheimer. “But I knew I’d have to work a lot to get better.”
He put in the time.
Cauble trusted Misenheimer enough to put him into Carson’s second game of 2008 against North Rowan. He pitched a scoreless inning and finished an 8-1 victory.
The sidearm delivery helped his fastball sink, and it ran away from frustrated right-handed hitters.
After several so-so relief appearances, his first start came against Davie. That was a setback. He was knocked out in the third inning with 10 hits and eight earned runs on his record.
Misenheimer kept working, but with only pitch it was tough for him to make it through anyone’s lineup more than once.
A turning point came in a game against East Rowan. East knocked out Carson starter Cam Park in the first inning. Misenheimer came in, lasted five innings and allowed only two earned runs. His confidence got a shot in the arm.
Not long after that, Misenheimer shut down West Rowan for three innings in an impressive relief appearance.
He finished his junior season 0-2 with a 5.25 ERA and only seven strikeouts in 24 innings, but he’d taken the first stride toward success. The next critical step was developing another pitch to go with his fastball.
“Before this season we worked on a slider,” Cauble said. “It was necessary if he was going to be a complete pitcher. It’s hard to get by on all fastballs.”
Cauble knew Misenheimer would be a key component of the pitching staff as a senior. He was mixing in sliders. He was throwing strikes. His defense liked playing behind him.
“Still, I’d be lying if I said I thought he’d be our No. 1,” Cauble said. “I saw him as our closer.”
Of course, a closer needs something to close, or his value is limited.
Assistant coaches persuaded Cauble to start Misenheimer in the Cougars’ third game of the season against Mooresville. Their thinking was he was the guy who had the best chance to keep the Cougars in the game.
“I was hard-headed about it,” Cauble said. “But everyone was telling me, ‘You’ve got to start Will.’ Then he went out there and baffled them.”
Misenheimer shut out Mooresville the first four innings. Carson won 9-5.
The rest of the season he was handed the ball often in big games as both a reliever and starter.
He pitched a complete-game victory against rival South Rowan. He went the distance in a losing rematch with Mooresville. He tossed a complete game at Lake Norman. He started Carson’s playoff game at T.C. Roberson.
He finished 3-6 with three saves and a 4.25 ERA. He struck out 48 in a county-leading 61 innings. With a break here and there, he could’ve been 6-3.
“It seemed like we were always up 2-0 in the sixth,” Misenheimer said. “Then I’d walk somebody, give up a couple of Judy hits and we’d lose.”
The league’s coaches recognized how effectively Misenheimer pitched and voted him to the All-NPC team.
“That showed how much respect they had for him,” Cauble said.
Misenheimer didn’t know anything at all about Montreat, but when he was at a college fair at Catawba, his mother told him to talk to the Montreat people because former South Rowan standout Ryan Bostian was playing there.
That led to conversations with Montreat coaches and a visit to the school, which is near Asheville.
Coaches came to watch him pitch, saw him hold West Rowan to one run in three relief innings and liked what they saw.
“Montreat and I sort of found each other,” Misenheimer said. “I was looking for a school where I’d have a chance play baseball. They were looking for a pitcher.”
Misenheimer is pitching for the South Rowan Legion team this summer. He’ll start some and relieve some. Normal wear and tear isn’t usually a factor for pitchers who throw from the angle Misenheimer does. They can go almost every night.
He’s working on his changeup, a third pitch he’ll need in college. The changeup will help him get lefty hitters out. They get a very good look at the ball from Misenheimer’s release point.
“The first homer I gave up all year was to a lefty (Kevin Price) at T.C. Roberson,” Misenheimer said. “That wasn’t a good feeling at all ó not in a playoff game. But I’m still learning. As a pitcher, you never stop learning.”
Misenheimer learned quite a bit, and the Cougars won 15 games. They couldn’t have done it without him.
“I look at Will as the ultimate team player,” Cauble said. “He changed everything to try to help his team.”