Evangel junior Patrick Crouch hoped to see the field a lot this season after missing the Eagles’ 2013 championship campaign following Tommy John surgery that previous fall.
Crouch hasn’t seen the field much, but he’s been a welcome addition at the plate.
Evangel coach Tim Hulett was expecting the right hander to be part of a deep pitching staff upon his return, but Crouch battled his way into the lineup in the preseason and now leads the Eagles in batting average as the designated hitter.
“He was swinging the bat well in the intrasquad games, and our coaches said he had a really good summer, too,” Hulett said. “We had two open spots offensively, and we gave a lot of guys a shot ahead of him.
“They did OK, but every time (Crouch) got a chance, he came through. He won the job, and now he’s in the six-hole.
Crouch said he couldn’t really explain his team-high .387 batting average and 17 RBIs, which is impressive considering his 62 at bats are 15-20 less than most of the regular starters.
“I got released to play this past summer, and I had to play first base because I still couldn’t pitch,” Crouch said. “I did a lot of hitting. To have a shot to play this season, I knew that there were going to be about five guys for one spot.
“So I busted my butt at hitting. It feels great to be able to be out there with the guys this season, and the Lord has blessed me a lot to be in this position. I knew if I didn’t hit, I would probably be on the bench.”
Crouch (2-0) has pitched a little this season, compiling a 1.80 ERA in 11 2⁄3 innings on what he says is “80 percent healthy.”
Evangel doesn’t need any more arms with seven pitchers recording an ERA under 3.00 with at least 10 innings pitched. Blake Buckman (5-1, 1.77 ERA), Hunter Shaw (4-1, 1.91) and Shane Miears (3-1, 2.05) are the Eagles’ main starters, and Evangel can throw guys like Brooks Bryan (2-1, 0.00 in 19 2⁄3 innings) and Heath Souter (1-0, 1.88 ERA) at an opponent as well.
But Crouch says his baseball future is in pitching, and he aims to return full time to the mound as a senior and hopefully in college.
“I pitched and catched a lot growing up … but I never thought it would be me that needed Tommy John surgery,” Crouch said about a procedure usually performed to repair elbows of overused players. “My arm was hurting, and then the summer after my freshman season, it started killing me and I couldn’t throw 90 feet.
“But it’s starting to get stronger now. I plan on being a college pitcher and that will be my focus.”
Crouch’s main role this season is at the plate, where he is driving in runners like Buckman (.369 23 runs scored), Austin Stegall (.319, 26 runs scored) and Miller Parker (.293, 25 runs scored).
“We talk a lot about staying square, attacking the ball and not chasing pitches – Patrick is doing that well,” Hulett said. “He’s making solid contact with his short swings, and he isn’t trying to do too much.
“We’ve got a lot of guys in front of him, and we’ve got a good left-handed hitter behind him (John Michael Boswell) to protect him.”
Crouch watched the Eagles win the Class 2A title this past season, and he relishes the opportunity to help the team in another title push – this time in Class 3A.
Evangel (19-7-1, 4-0 District 1-3A) can clinch the district title with one win against Mansfield in Thursday’s double header, and the No. 2 Eagles trail just John Curtis in the kenramsey.com Class 3A power ratings.
Evangel’s McWhiney signs with BPCC
Evangel pitcher Austin McWhiney is fighting to get back on the mound during his senior season, but he’s hopeful he can play baseball after this season as well.
The senior right hander signed a scholarship with BPCC this past week.
McWhiney had to stop pitching earlier this season because of tendonitis and inflammation in his throwing arm.
“I pitched in the jamboree game and started three games this season, but I just had to stop,” McWhiney said. “I had a few offers in Oklahoma and Kansas, but the money situation and the injury led me to choosing BPCC.
“I wanted to make sure that I didn’t go off and possibly not be able to pitch again, and then I would be in a bad situation.”
McWhiney is throwing bullpens now and hopes to help the Eagles repeat as state champions.
As a regular starter in 2013, he compiled a 1.74 ERA in nearly 45 innings pitched.
“It’s been killing me sitting around watching because you want to be in the game,” McWhiney said. ‘But you find a role for yourself on the bench, and you make sure your team is up.”
Two Lady Flyers make All-State soccer
For the second straight year, Loyola’s Bailey Freeman and Anna Brown have been chosen the All-State girls soccer team, chosen by the Louisiana High School Soccer Coaches Association.
Madeline Mays was named to the second team.
The trio was part of a Flyer team that made it to the state semifinals and was the No. 3 seed in the Division II playoffs. The Flyers were 27-4-2 overall.