Video shot by: Alyson Boyer Rode
Scouts flocked to Southern Pines, N.C. yesterday for a matchup between Forsyth Country Day School (Lewisville, N.C.) and Pinecrest High. Pinecrest's starter was righthander Dillon Maples and he was going up against a loaded Forsyth squad that features five Division I players.
Scouts love matchup games and nearly 50 of them crowded in behind home plate, including a handful of crosscheckers and at least two scouting directors.
Maples sat in the 91-93 mph range with his fastball and touched 95 twice. The pitch had some armside movement, but he had trouble hitting his spots with it, leading to a lot of deep counts. Maples was on a pitch count of 60-75 and the deep counts limited how long he could stay in the game. He threw his curveball for strikes between 78-80 mph, but the pitch was a little slurvy at times.
Maples said he didn't feel like he had his best stuff and I can attest to that, as well. I've seen him at his best. He was dominant during his first outing at the Team USA 18U Trials this summer, with a fastball up to 96 mph and a tight, hammer curveball. He said that's the outing he tries to replicate each time he takes the mound.
"Early in the innings, I wasn't getting ahead with fastballs, so I couldn't establish the breaking ball," Maples said. "But I think later on, I started to get ahead with first-pitch strikes then I could start working in the breaking ball."
Maples wound up going 3 2/3 innings, giving up one run on one hit with two walks and seven strikeouts. He didn't dominate, but it was a solid outing, especially since it was his first official game of the season.
The lone hit Maples gave up was an opposite-field home run to Forsyth's George Carter—normally a first baseman, but the starting right fielder in this game. Maples threw a 91 mph two-seam fastball that caught too much of the plate and Carter destroyed it to left-center for a no-doubt home run. It was a line drive home run that looked to still be rising as it cleared the fence and Carter took his sweet time watching it leave as he slowly jogged to first base.
"I didn't care," Maples said. "The scoreboard says it all. He can pimp it if we win."
Pinecrest did wind up winning the game in the bottom of the 7th inning, 5-4. It was a good win for the Patriots, as Forsyth Country Day entered the season ranked No. 47 in the country.
Maples will be watched closely this spring and he's working to improve many aspects of his game.
"Everybody needs to work on fastball command," Maples said. "After that, I'm working on my changeup. I started toying with a changeup this summer and I think this season I've got a pretty good one. I don't get to throw it a lot because in high school you're blowing your fastball by people. So, the changeup gets overlooked a lot. And then curveball consistency, I've got to work on that. When I'm pitching good, my curveball's working."
Maples has the advantage of having two guys in his corner that have been through the draft process before. His father, Tim, was a second-round pick by the Orioles in 1979 out of Pinecrest. He played five seasons in the minors, making it as high as Double-A. Another Pinecrest alum is James Baldwin, a fourth-round pick by the White Sox out of high school that went on to pitch in the big leagues for 11 years. Baldwin is now Pinecrest's pitching coach.
"I think he did real well," Baldwin said of Maples' first game of the season. "He didn't have his best stuff tonight but, at the same time, he went out there and pitched. That's the sign of a good pitcher. Like I told him, nine out of 10 times when I went out there, I didn't have my best stuff, but you have to just go out there and keep your team in the ballgame."
Baldwin said the main thing he's working on with Maples this season is his mental approach on the mound and preparation between starts.
"We're just trying to make sure that he understands his own mechanics," Baldwin said. "You just have to drill him because a lot of times you're going to be working with someone that doesn't know you as well as you know yourself. So, when you go out there and make mistakes, you have to know how to correct them yourself. That's the one thing I'm trying to get him to do."
Maples was just the main attraction, but the game featured a handful of draft prospects. For more coverage of the game, head over to Baseball America's High School Blog.
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