By Eric Ingles Democrat Sports Reporter
April 16, 2014
So far this year, 18 baserunners have tried to steal against Smith-Cotton freshman catcher Nick Hagedorn. For six of them, the experience ended with them walking back to the dugout after being thrown out.
He’s new to the Smith-Cotton varsity team, but he’s been catching for a while and has spent time working at Smith-Cotton coach Jud Kindle’s Sports Academy getting ready for the high school season.
Hagedorn spends a lot of time perfecting the mechanics of throwing a runner out, from transferring the ball from his glove to his hand to the throw down to second.
“All winter long we’ve been working,” he said. “(The key is) just getting it out of your hands as quickly as possible.”
There were two runners who tried to steal in Tuesday’s game against Warrensburg who Hagedorn threw out. He caught another on Friday in a win over Marshall during the West Central Conference Baseball Tournament.
“He almost baits them a little bit with his in and out throws,” Kindle said. “Very consistent with a 1.9 pop time. That what you look for. He puts it on the base.”
Hagedorn credits his pitching staff with helping to slow runners who might think about going.
“The pitchers are really keeping them close,” he said. “A lot of them are using the slide-step which gives me a lot more time to throw them out.”
Smith-Cotton’s pitching staff has a lot of veteran talent with some younger pitchers mixed in but Hagedorn said he treats all the pitchers equally. Hagedorn himself might be a freshman, but he’s already comfortable working with the Tigers’ staff.
“I’ve been catching them all winter long at Jud’s,” he said.
He still sees room for improvement in his own game. He would like to get better at blocking as well as calling a game, but behind the plate is where he wants to be.
“I feel like you can control the game mentally and physically,” he said. “You can control the pitches and control where the defense plays. If you call for an outside pitch, you have people shift over.”
He’s been having a breakout season at the plate as well. Hitting third in the batting order, he is hitting .444 with four doubles, two triples and two home runs in 12 games so far.
“He’s a good contributor in the middle of our lineup,” Kindle said.
Hagedorn also benefits from the high on base percentages from the two players usually in front of him in the order, Chance McMullin and Steven Bradbury. Often coming up with runners on, Hagedorn leads Smith-Cotton with 17 RBI this season and is hitting .632 with runners in scoring position.
“I just try to keep hitting line drives,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to have people on base this year.”