The bracket is set and the Owasso Rams are set to start their state tournament run on Wednesday against Yukon. Owasso’s run last year came to an end in the state championship game with a loss to Tulsa Union. It was the thirteenth appearance in the state title game over the past fourteen seasons for the powerhouse program, having won eight championships in that time. At 34-1 the Rams have been the #1 ranked team in the PG National Top 50 for the past three weeks. Heading into the state tournament, Owasso is drawing a lot of attention.
Following last year’s run to the state championship Owasso drew a lot of attention for another reason; the pitch count of then-junior RHP Dylan Bundy. Bundy reportedly threw 181 pitches in one day during a doubleheader. Head Coach Larry Turner drew criticism in the media following the tournament. The Tulsa World ran an article quoting several prominent baseball people as well as Dr. James Andrews, all of whom criticized the workload (some indirectly, others directly). A lot of people questioned whether Turner and Owasso were taking unnecessary risk with a rare arm.
Bundy and Turner both defended the decision, both explaining that Dylan had trained to withstand such a workload. When asked last month about the controversy over Bundy’s pitch count
Turner said “we have Dylan’s best interest at heart, I would never
jeopardize any player’s health, I appreciate that other people
are worried about him as well.” Bundy was quoted in that same Tulsa World article as saying “A lot of people talk crap about coach Turner. I'm the one who decided that I could throw that much. My dad and I had talked about it. I was up for it.”
Bundy has shown no ill effects from the high pitch count last year. In fact, Bundy’s fastball velocity has increased from topping out at 94 during the tournament last year to routinely registering at 97 this year. Bundy reportedly hit 99 on Owasso’s gun during his dominant 17 strikeout complete game shutout of Enid in the District Championship on May 6. Bundy’s command has somehow been even more impressive than his velocity, as evidenced by his four walks (compared to 148 Ks) over 64 innings (0 HBP). That kind of command has allowed Bundy to throw a complete game in each of his ten starts, without racking up high pitch counts. In fact, the most pitches Bundy has thrown in a game this season was 100 on April 29, and has only needed more than 85 pitches on just two occasions.
Bundy said “I’m prepared to go a long way, I’m perfectly fine going over 100 pitches if need be, I’ll do anything to help our team win.” While Bundy is ready and willing, Turner said that he will likely see a lighter workload in this year’s state tournament. The tentative plan calls for Bundy to pitch on Thursday, which could potentially be a matchup with the third ranked team in the state, Edmond Santa Fe (ranked #20 in the PG Top 25 Regional Rankings). Whether or not Bundy will be available to pitch in relief later in the tournament remains to be seen. Turner explained “we’re not going to risk anything with him, obviously we’ve got a big thing going but he has a lot at stake.”
The fact that last year’s high pitch count hasn’t affected Bundy answers the biggest question mark about his draft stock. In fact, it may be the only question. While he only stands at 6’ 1” and has a strong mature body for an 18-year old that doesn’t project for a big increase in strength, he doesn’t really need to develop physically. Bundy already has top of the line velocity and command to go with a devastating cutter. The biggest difference between Bundy’s arsenal and that of the most polished college pitchers in the country is simply the feel of his curveball and changeup. Bundy is as big league ready as prep pitchers come, the only thing that he seems to be lacking is experience at the next level.
With the 2011 MLB Draft now just under a month away Bundy seems to be the only one who isn't focused on his draft stock at the moment. Dylan said “I’m not really thinking about the draft right now, I’m just focused on helping us win a state championship.” Bundy could very well be the first high school player to come off the board and is almost certain to be the first high school pitcher selected. But for Bundy the big question is; can he close out his high school career celebrating a state championship with his Owasso teammates?