Tournaments | Story | 6/11/2019

Ketchup key as Noles advance

Jack Nelson        
Photo: Caleb Ketchup (Perfect Game)

MARIETTA, Ga. – Caleb Ketchup is a pitcher’s nightmare.

There is nothing more rattling as a starting pitcher than a leadoff hitter that takes a big cut at the first pitch of the game. Nor is nothing more exhausting than a leadoff guy that sees 12 pitches, fouling off the best you have to offer, before he finally works a walk. Even worse is when that guy proceeds to steal second and score a couple pitches later. It sets the tone for the entire game, and it is exactly what Ketchup brings to the table.

“My first at-bat, I just try to let my teammates get a feel for what the pitcher is throwing,” Ketchup said about his patient approach. “That means seeing as many pitches as possible. I basically try to get on base any way that I can, then get into scoring position so my teammates can work.”

The Georgia commit certainly followed his plan today. He led off Tuesday's playoff game against the Ozone Warriors 17u by working a 3-2 walk. Ketchup then proceeded to steal second and third, and an overthrow allowed him to score a run before a ball was even put in play.

But to label Ketchup a speedster only would sell him short. Speed is just one of the tools this 5-foot-11 shortstop possesses. In his second at-bat, Ketchup launched a monster two-run home run over the left field fence to extend the Noles lead.

“I take a lot of pride in having multiple tools,” Ketchup said. “I work really hard at all facets of the game. But really I just like to be able to help my team and affect the game in many ways.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Ketchup played perfect defense at shortstop, making a particularly nice attempt at a slow roller that ricocheted off pitcher Thomas Lemaster. Ketchup even came on to pitch the seventh inning, striking out the side to punctuate the Noles 6-0 victory.

“He has great instincts,” Noles coach Karl Garcia said. “We are out here for two games every day, and that can be difficult in the summer. But he just loves to play.”

As good as he is right now, Ketchup knows he will need to transform his game before he gets to Athens in a little over a year. Pitchers will be throwing harder, and runners will be faster.

“I'd say I need to work on my hitting,” he said. “There are always areas to improve. It’s a complicated thing.”

Coach Garcia is confident his guy will be able to overcome any challenge that comes his way.

“His tools are there,” said Garcia. “He can play anywhere on the field, infield or outfield.”

With a strong passion for the game, a great travel program, and countless opportunities to improve in tournaments the rest of summer, it seems likely Ketchup will continue to climb toward his goals. But at his very core, he knows what is truly fueling him.

“I really want to do it for my family,” Ketchup said. “I know my mom is at every game. I always just want to perform for her.”

In other Noles news, Auburn commit Kade Snell added a booming home run and Dominick McIntyre tallied two more hits to pace the offense. On the mound, Thomas Lemaster tossed six scoreless with five strikeouts.

The Noles march on to the quarterfinals of the WWBA 17u National Championship Qualifier, where they will face Sox Baseball 17u at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday at the East Cobb Complex.

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