MARIETTA, Ga. -- Throwing to a backstop decorated with a mural of collegiate and professional scouts with radar guns popping up every time the pitcher comes set can be intimidating for many, but not for Indiana Prospects right-hander Joseph Gatto.
Gatto fired three impressive innings in the Indiana Prospects’ first game of the 2013 17u WWBA National Championship at East Cobb Complex. His fastball sat between 90-93 mph, peaking at 94, and he threw a knee-buckling mid-70s curveball to go with it.
His stat line read: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K.
“I wasn’t sure how I was gonna do being in the rain a couple days, but I feel like I had a great performance,” said Gatto. “I threw the ball pretty well.”
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound pitcher showed great command of his pitches, throwing 23 of his 32 pitches for strikes.
“I try to always get that first pitch strike,” Gatto said. “That means so much when you’re able to get ahead of someone like that.”
The University of North Carolina commit impressed the scouts with his ability to paint the corners, sending two hitters down looking at 90 mph fastballs that painted the outside black. His third victim went down swinging hopelessly at a devastating 75 mph 12-to-6 curveball.
“My curveball’s been pretty good for me this year,” Gatto said when asked what his favorite two-strike pitch is. “I either throw that or my two-seam (fastball) and it’s been working for me.”
Gatto’s battery mate in this game, Colby Sweat, said he felt comfortable behind the plate even though he had never caught Gatto in a game before.
“He throws really hard,” said Sweat. “That first inning he kind of came out a little jumpy at first then came down after the first couple of batters and he was throwing heat.”
With a solid defense behind him, Gatto was able to fly through three innings on the mound in his short outing.
“The guys certainly rally behind him,” said Mark Peters, coach of the Indiana Prospects. “We got a lot of talented kids and they all really support each other.”
The team has six players who have committed to Duke, UNC, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Yale and, Western Kentucky; all of which are Division I schools.
The offense backed Gatto well, manufacturing 11 runs on 10 hits and 10 walks in the 11-0 win over the East Cobb Yankees 17u. James McGhee, a Duke commit, went 2-for-4 at the plate and displayed tremendous speed, swiping three bags. Gage Rogers and Greg Rengel had two hits and two RBI apiece, while catcher Colby Sweat reached base safely in all four plate appearances, collecting an RBI single and walking three times.
“I think we played very well,” said Gatto. “We hit the ball tremendously. I think we’re starting to play together.”
“They were anxious to take the field and it showed," Peters added. “They took some good hacks and hit on some good counts and moved some runners in.”
After being rained out the first three days of the 2013 17u WWBA National Championship, the team was just happy to get a game in.
“It’s been tough trying to get the guys together,” said Peters. “It was hard to even get outside and take BP and do anything.”
Coach Peters tried to keep his players’ spirits high despite not being able to play baseball.
“We went to Dave and Buster’s last night and had a little fun there -- did a little team event,” Peters mentioned.
“We were getting a little crazy in the hotel,” Gatto mentioned of all the rain. “It was good to come out here. I think everyone needed this.”
Indiana controlled the game, seeing 125 pitches over five innings of offense and working deep counts to get on base.
The Indiana Prospects baseball organization has produced some highly touted prospects that recently went high in the 2103 Major League Baseball Draft. Trey Ball, who was the seventh overall pick by the Boston Red Sox, and Conrad Gregor, who was selected by the Houston Astros in the fourth round, are the latest Indiana prospects to headline the organization.
The Indiana Prospects 17u team competing at East Cobb this week is made up of players from Indiana, New Jersey, and Florida. Although they are not all from the same area, they looked like a team that’s been playing together for years.
Sweat couldn’t have been happier with the way the team played, producing up and down the lineup on offense and making the tough plays look routine in the field. He displayed the greatest confidence in his team, saying, “I feel like if we keep playing like this we shouldn’t lose.”