April 14, 2010 11:23:00 AM
HAMILTON -- Perfection rarely strikes twice.
But throwing a perfect game is a little easier when you have the mind-set of a Bulldog.
In the past year, Hamilton High School senior Dylan Earnest has developed that approach on the mound. With the help of electric stuff, the senior left-hander has been dazzling opponents.
On Tuesday, Earnest threw his second perfect game in less than a year in a 6-0 victory against Calhoun City. He struck out 13 and allowed only one ball out of the infield.
For his accomplishment, Earnest is The Commercial Dispatch Prep Player of the Week.
"It is hard to do and takes a lot of luck," Earnest said. "Just about always there is going to be at least one awesome play."
Center fielder Chase Reeves made a diving catch on the only ball hit out of the infield. Earnest credited shortstop Nathan Cockerham for making another fine play up the middle to snuff out another potential hit.
This is the second week in a row Earnest has been recognized. Last week, he and teammate Austin Welch were honored for their performances in a victory against Bruce.
Earnest''s latest performance raised his record to 6-0 (with two saves) and lowered his ERA to 0.18. He has struck out 80 and walked only six in 39 1/3 innings.
Earnest said his ability to command the strike zone has contributed to his confidence on the mound. This season, he said he is throwing two and a half strikes for every ball, which is an improvement of one half to one from last season. Against Calhoun City, he threw three to three and a half strikes for every ball.
"My breaking ball was a lot tighter and was breaking a lot harder, and my fastball had good movement on it," Earnest said.
Those weapons help create the Bulldog attitude. Earnest said he doesn''t go out thinking he will throw a perfect game. Instead, he wants to set the tone on the mound and goes right at hitters.
"I just go out and every pitch I think, ''Here it comes, hit it if you can,'' " Earnest said. "That''s just the attitude I think you have to have as a pitcher. If you have good stuff you have to be confident with it."
Hamilton High coach Lewis Earnest said his senior left-hander isn''t a Bulldog because he bows up and throws the ball past every hitter. Earnest has impressive velocity, but coach Earnest said his ability to locate and to move the ball in and out and up and down has improved.
"He is confident," Earnest said. "When he toes the rubber, they better be ready because he is coming with it. He has been real good about hitting his spots and locating his fastball. His curveball is better than it was. He definitely is a confident pitcher right now. Hopefully it stays that way."
Earnest notched his first perfect game in July for his Pontotoc team in the American Legion State Tournament. While the competition in that seven-inning game (stopped due to the 10-run mercy rule) might have been tougher, coach Earnest said his left-hander is focused on doing what he needs to do and believing in his stuff.
"He has picked up right where he left off and hasn''t missed a beat," Earnest said.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.