Tournaments | Story | 7/15/2020

Canes National Loaded with Top Arms

Brett Greenberg        
MARIETTA, Ga. – More times than not, the team that comes out as champions in any Perfect Game tournament usually is filled with several top pitchers in their respective class. In this instance, the 16U WWBA National Championship tournament features a team with several top prospects, the Canes National 16U, based out of Fredericksburg, Virginia and led by long-time coach, Brian Hucks. This team currently has 19 players committed to play college ball, 10 of whom are pitchers who throw 90+ mph.

Some of the featured pitcher on the staff are:

1. Tristan Smith: #1 LHP in South Carolina; #8 overall player in U.S. (up to 95 mph)
2. Evan Siary: #1 RHP in South Carolina; Mississippi State commit (up to 90 mph)
3. Jackson Ferris: #1 LHP in North Carolina; NC State commit (up to 91 mph)
4. Kassius Thomas: #3 RHP in California; Duke commit (up to 94 mph)
5. Andrew Dutkanych IV: #1 RHP in Indiana; Vanderbilt commit (up to 91 mph)
6. Matthew Matthijs: #3 RHP in North Carolina; UNC commit (up to 90 mph)

The Canes organization has been around for a long time, so it is not difficult for their coaches to find players who want to play for them. Players know what the Canes are about, so they have no problem getting top performers. Canes players recruited other players, which has allowed them to be successful year in and year out at Perfect Game events.

“Our players know they are the top priority,” said Coach Hucks. “The organization and coaches take great care of our players and do their best to prepare them for college ball, so we love when other players are interested in playing with the Canes.”

Perfect Game tournaments are filled with long days and multiple games in a week, so having a plan to follow regarding the pitching staff throughout the week is very important. In his years of coaching, Coach Hucks has mastered his scheduling and throwing limits for his pitchers. Usually he throws his number one, two and three pitchers on Friday and Saturday, so they can have a couple days rest before bracket play begins. In the middle of the week he will use his other remaining arms, with each pitcher having a limit of roughly 30 pitches per outing. Coach Hucks will constantly have someone warming up in the bullpen for the next inning.

“Pitching is the most important factor in what makes a team successful in these types of tournaments,” said Coach Hucks. “Through the years the coaches and I have come up with a formula, which has allowed us to be successful.”

Each pitcher on the staff has certain mechanics and aspects of pitching they work on throughout the summer with the Canes pitching coach, Cory Welch. Coach Welch works with each of his pitchers individually and develops a plan for each of them to improve upon throughout the season. The Canes’ pitchers are also lucky enough to have an alumnus help them out, Sam Weatherly, a 3rd round draft pick out of Clemson. Weatherly played with the Canes organization years ago and offers valuable coaching and information regarding pitching and more importantly, optimizing recovery time. Coach Hucks says Weatherly takes his pitchers to a gym and goes through the necessary lifting and stretching with them in order to minimize their soreness, allowing them to pitch after a short rest.

“Sam has been great for us in everything he has done,” said Coach Hucks. “He usually deals with our players after they pitch and gets them fully recovered.”

On this team, each pitcher knows their role and has accepted it for the betterment of the team. Whether the pitcher’s outing is one out or seven innings, he knows that he is helping the team win ball games.

“Our players have done such an outstanding job of understanding what we are trying to do,” said Coach Hucks. “Each of them knows their role and are comfortable with that.”

Recently, analytics have become extremely important in today’s game particularly when it comes to pitching. Arm slot and spin rate have also become a big point of emphasis. Coach Hucks believes that analytics is very important but stresses it in the beginning and end of the season, as it is not a main point of focus in the middle of the season. The coaching staff does research on incoming players and knows about a pitcher before he steps foot on the field. This is important when trying to teach new players how to pitch correctly and keep their health in mind as well.

Through pool play, the Canes staff has allowed only three earned runs in four games and have been absolutely dominating the opposing hitters. In addition to their overpowering fastball, each pitcher has a wipe out off speed pitch to complement their velocity. The Canes have presumably locked up one of the top seeds in bracket play, which begins Wednesday, July 15th. The importance of having a capable pitching staff is apparent in the Canes success, who have positioned themselves nicely for a championship run.
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