Prep Baseball: West’s Ketchie signs with Catawba baseball
MOUNT ULLA — In roughly 10 months, West Rowan’s Bryan Ketchie has made the leap from hoping to pitch for the high school varsity to signing with Catawba.
“A year ago, I’d never dreamed of getting a chance like this,” Ketchie said. “It’s happened fast.”
No one believes the ride is going to end anytime soon. Catawba coach Jim Gantt is thrilled to get Ketchie, who had a strong junior season for West and followed it up with a sensational summer for Gantt’s Rowan County American Legion squad that won the state championship.
The lefty spent his freshman and sophomore years pitching for jayvee and Junior American Legion teams. That’s why even some serious baseball fans had never heard of Ketchie until last summer.
Quietly, he’s been pretty good for a while. When the West Rowan Junior Legion team made the state tournament in 2013 as a first-year program, it was Ketchie who pitched the opening game against Swansboro. He threw a three-hit shutout.
Seth Graham took over as West’s coach prior to the 2015 season and was quickly convinced that Ketchie was ready to succeed either as a starter or out of the bullpen.
“He was as far along as most guys who have already been on varsity for a year,” Graham said. “I could see he worked really hard at everything he did and he was a left-hander who threw strikes. Those guys are always good to have.”
In West Rowan’s home opener, Graham handed Ketchie the ball for his first varsity start. He worked five innings against Mooresville, allowing one hit and no walks and striking out eight.
In late March, Ketchie limited hard-hitting Cox Mill to one earned run in six innings for his second win and his first South Piedmont Conference victory.
West played in an elite Easter Tournament in Charlotte the first week of April, and Ketchie pitched against Weddington, a powerful program that won 2012 and 2013 3A state championships. Ketchie lost 3-2, but he pitched all seven innings and left the mound knowing his stuff was good enough to compete against any lineup.
Ketchie’s next start was his most important — a 3-0 win against East Rowan at Staton Field. He was great that night, allowing four hits and no walks.
Ketchie’s fourth and final win of the prep season was a tough one — 4-3 over Central Cabarrus on April 27. That was the victory that clinched a share of the SPC championship for the Falcons, their first league title since 2006.
Ketchie was 4-2 as a junior with 41 strikeouts and 15 walks in 48 innings. His ERA was 2.19.
Ketchie did well enough for the Falcons that he was expected to contribute to Rowan’s Legion season, but no one really saw his 6-0 summer coming.
He had early wins against South Rowan and Lexington, but it was his dramatic and unflappable relief appearance in a 1-0 road win against a loaded High Point team that was his breakout moment.
“I had a lot of good coaching this year that really helped me,” Ketchie said. “Coach Graham. Coach Gantt. They just kind of let me do what I do, and it worked out.”
Ketchie doesn’t rattle on the mound, and it’s impossible to tell from his facial expression and body language whether he’s pitching a one-hitter or a 12-hitter.
“I think he’s as competitive as anyone, but he doesn’t wear his emotions like some guys do,” Graham said. “I’m sure on the inside he’s concerned, but he doesn’t show it. He has a mindset like a college player or pro. He knows what he can do and what he can’t do and he has confidence he can make the pitch he needs to make.”
Graham saw a lot of southpaw Nick Lomascolo when he was developing on the Lake Norman High and Mooresville Legion teams. Graham compares Ketchie’s potential to Lomascolo’s, and that’s high praise. Lomascolo was one of the best in Catawba history. He holds school career records for innings, strikeouts and wins and is still pitching professionally in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
“When he was in high school, I told some Division I coaches they needed to come look at Lomo, but they weren’t interested because he was throwing 82 mph,” Graham said. “But he could pitch and he could get guys out. By his senior year he was up to 85-86 mph, and then he picked up some more at Catawba. I can see Ketchie doing that. He’s not big (6 feet, 155 pounds), but he’ll get stronger and he’ll throw harder.”
Ketchie throws hard enough now to be a handful for high school hitters because his location is exceptional. He uses both sides of the plate and he mixes in an effective curveball. There are also nights when he commands a devastating changeup.
“It was about the middle of the summer, and Coach Gantt came over to me and said, ‘No pressure or anything, but what would you think about pitching for Catawba?'” Ketchie said. “I was pretty excited.”
Still, he managed to stay as calm as ever on the mound.
Ketchie won playoff games against Mocksville and Randolph County and saved the deciding game in the Area III championship series with High Point.
Then he had a terrific outing (seven innings, five hits, one run) to win against Eastern Randolph in the state tournament.
In the regional tournament in Asheboro, Ketchie pitched six innings and gave Rowan a chance to win its titanic struggle with regional and national champion Chapin-Newberry (S.C.).
“My confidence grew as the summer went on,” Ketchie said. “Playing on such a good team, it was easy to have fun and to build confidence.”
Ketchie will be reunited with many Legion teammates at Catawba and is looking forward to competing for championships. That’s what Catawba baseball does.
Graham has seen more growth in Ketchie during fall baseball. Even without Omar Bautista, the Falcons will be a threat to defend their SPC title with a staff led by Ketchie and junior UNC commmit Austin Love.
“Watching Bryan this fall, I could see the ball jumping out of his hand a little more,” Graham said. “He was throwing fastballs by people.”
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