THURMONT — Standing on a mound higher than the one he toes at Brunswick High, Tyler Polesky didn’t exactly pitch with supreme confidence Monday at Catoctin.
“I was having a problem finding a landing spot,” Polesky said. “I was sliding and couldn’t really locate any of my off-speed pitches.”
All the while, the senior leaned on a new and improved version of himself to get through an early rough patch — if you can really call it that — in the Railroaders’ 9-0 win over the Cougars.
Polesky struck out 10 and allowed just one hit over 6 1-3 shutout innings, losing a no-hit bid in the bottom of the sixth when Catoctin left-handed hitter Briar Castellow lined the first pitch he saw into left field. It marked the first time the Cougars (3-3) hit the ball out of the infield.
After his travel ball season ended last summer, Polesky spent the next six months working with former Mount St. Mary’s pitcher Dustin Pease, who now offers pitching and hitting instruction to a host of young players in Maryland. Asked what he specifically worked on, Polesky simply said, “Everything.”
That meant making some tweaks in his pitching mechanics, which led to improved velocity and command. Polesky also added a slider and a change-up to his repertoire. So when Polesky walked two batters in the first inning and another in the second, he was better prepared to deal with the pressure, stranding two runners in each inning.
“As the game went on, I was able to find a comfortable [landing] spot and feel all my pitches out,” Polesky said.
Polesky said he couldn’t quite regain a strong feel for his curveball on Monday, but the sweeping slider he added during the offseason helped pad his strikeout totals. If not for two wild pitches that allowed two Cougars who struck out to reach base, Polesky may very well have pitched a one-hit shutout. With one out in the seventh, he had thrown 103 pitches — two short of the MPSSAA’s 105-pitch limit for high school sophomores, juniors and seniors.
After pitching in just two games last year, Polesky is now 3-0 this spring.
“I was really fired up [going into the season],” Polesky said. “I’m even more fired up now that stuff is starting to go my way.”
The Railroaders (4-3) lost both of their top starting pitchers from last season, with Brenden Johnson having graduated and Bryson Shaffer having transferred out of the school, so they sorely needed Polesky’s emergence as a front-line starter.
“What he tweaked in the offseason, we’re reaping the benefits from this year,” Brunswick coach Roger Dawson said.
Polesky’s counterpart on the mound, sophomore Mason Albright, turned in his own strong pitching performance. Armed with a sharp-breaking curveball and a fastball with movement, the Virginia Tech commit struck out eight batters over five innings.
Albright threw one of his effective curveballs to Brunswick’s Matt Walker to get a called second strike with one out in the third inning. Walker fully expected Albright to throw him another curveball, and the senior shortstop launched it over the fence in left-center for a two-run homer.
“It was close to being in the dirt, I got lift on it, and it just carried, I guess,” Walker said.
Setting his own pitch limit of around 65 pitches for Albright, Catoctin coach Mike Franklin pulled his starting pitcher after the sophomore threw 66 pitches through five innings.
“He’s special, man,” Franklin said of Albright. “I wish we would have played a little better behind him. I wish we would have hit a little better. [Polesky] did a great job.”
As he spoke about Walker’s home run, Franklin placed the blame on himself.
“I wish I could take that pitch back,” said Franklin, who calls pitches from the dugout. “It was bad coaching. I wish I could go back in time and change that. I thought that changed the whole game.”
Brunswick scored four runs in the sixth, getting a two-run homer from Matt Boyer and a two-run single from Kyle Cruz before Trevor Barnhouse highlighted a three-run seventh with a two-run run single. Walker, Boyer and Cruz each finished with two hits.