May 1, 2009
HAMILTON -- Part of the beauty of sports can be found in the numbers.
Some statistics are hard to comprehend, regardless of how many times you look at them.
Chase Reeves still finds it difficult to believe he owns one of those numbers: Zero.
The junior left-hander has allowed 11 runs this season -- all unearned.
Combined with left-hander Dylan Earnest, who has allowed only six earned runs this season, the Lions have one of the state''s best pitching tandems.
Hamilton (21-5) will put that duo to the test starting at 6 p.m. today in the first game of its Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A third-round series against Water Valley.
It doesn''t matter whether Reeves or Earnest gets the starting assignment tonight because either one has the potential to dominate an opponent.
"They just love it and they work hard at it," Hamilton coach Lewis Earnest said. "They have natural movement and they do a lot of things right. They are just tough."
Reeves has overcome inflammation in his left shoulder that forced him to miss a couple of weeks pitching. He credits his defense for helping him keep a zero on his stat line this deep into the season.
"I just go out there and try to throw strikes and walk as few as possible," Reeves said. "Last year, I walked a lot. Every time I need the defense to make a play they have made the play."
Reeves said he worked in the offseason on his mechanics. He said the training helped him develop better command of his three-pitch arsenal (fastball, changeup, curveball) and add a few mph to his velocity.
He said having a teammate like Earnest helps motivate him.
"When Dylan is pitching I don''t ever think they are going to score more than two runs," Reeves said. "I just feel like we have a chance to win every game when he is pitching. I hope they feel like that when I pitch."
Earnest, who allowed all six of his earned runs in one game against Ackerman, feels the same way when Reeves is on the mound. He said he has struggled to regain the form he had in a victory against Amory.
Earnest might be a little hard on himself. He is 6-2 with a 0.83 ERA. He has allowed 22 hits, walked 13, and struck out 95 in 50 1/3 innings.
"He has a presence on the mound," Reeves said. "He knows he is good. He doesn''t act like it, but he knows he is. I guess everybody else is intimidated by him. Other teams don''t want to face him."
It''s hard to imagine Reeves'' statistics could be better but they are. Reeves, who also is quarterback on the school''s football team, is 8-0 with a 0.00 ERA. He has allowed 28 hits, walked 25, and struck out 88 in 55 2/3 innings.
"I guess I am a power pitcher, but I try to locate my offspeed stuff," Reeves said.
The 1-2 left-handed punch gives Earnest a luxury few coaches in the nation have.
Coach Earnest said Reeves and Earnest are similar in that they don''t like to lose. He said Reeves might be better at disguising his intensity, while Earnest is more apt to let his emotions show.
"They don''t compete against each other. They compete against themselves," Earnest said. "Both of them are very intense."
Earnest said his best pitch is a slider. He said Reeves'' best pitch is his changeup, which is another way the two left-handers are alike.
Coach Earnest said both pitchers also throw in the mid 80s and enjoy motivating each other to be the best they can be.
"We pretty much work together in all of the workouts we do," Earnest said. "I try to outdo him the best I can, and I am sure he tries to outdo me. Right now he is a little ahead as far as ERA, but I am going to try to catch up."
Both players also contribute at the plate.
Reeves leads the team in batting average (.462), runs scored (32), triples (four), home runs (seven), RBIs (27), walks (21), on-base percentage (.587), and slugging percentage (.954).
Earnest has six doubles and 14 RBIs and is hitting .353.
Coach Earnest feels blessed this season to have Reeves and Earnest. He said he went his first 13 years as a baseball coach and didn''t have a left-hander.
The two he has this season are special.
"They both will play at the next level," Earnest said. "I don''t know at what level, but they both will have an opportunity to play. ... They both could probably play football for somebody. I don''t think they can take it as far as they can in baseball."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.