Brandon Walter allowed two earned runs in the first inning of Hodgson’s season opener against eventual state champion Appoquinimink.
Then he allowed one more earned run – the rest of the season.
The 6-foot-2 left-hander put together one of the greatest seasons in the history of Delaware high school baseball, making him an obvious selection as the state’s Player of the Year by the Delaware Baseball Coaches Association.
Walter’s numbers bordered on the absurd. He struck out 147 in 72 innings, and allowed just 25 hits, 16 walks and three earned runs. The opposition flailed away to a .116 batting average.
“He was as dominant of a pitcher as I’ve ever seen, coached, been around,” Hodgson coach Chris Moxley said.
He set a state record with six shutouts, threw a no-hitter April 2 against St. Georges and set another state mark with 19 strikeouts against A.I. du Pont on May 11. And he did it by consistently throwing the ball over the plate.
“I threw more strikes. I had a lot of walks last year,” Walter said. “…Getting ahead of batters was really important. That was the biggest change.
“Walks always hurt you. That’s one thing I’ve learned. Let them hit it.”
Walter didn’t have that many walks last year – 27 in 69 2/3 innings, when he went 7-1 with a 1.70 ERA. But he was even better this spring, going 10-1 for the Silver Eagles.
The only loss came April 23 against Caravel. Walter pitched a three-hitter, but the Buccaneers’ Brandon Fraley threw a no-hitter and Caravel won 2-0 on two unearned runs.
“As a coach, it was easy when he was on the mound,” Moxley said. “We would come up with a game plan to attack the hitters. He has three pitches, and he’s not afraid to use them.
“He’s a true student of the game. He watches a ton of film, and he’s constantly trying to get better. We had conversations between innings on how to attack hitters, what he saw and what I saw. He’s really mature that way. He’s able to see the game much better than most high school kids.”
Walter alternated between a fastball that reaches 90 mph, a biting curveball and a devastating changeup.
“He can locate all three pitches,” Moxley said. “In any situation, we weren’t afraid to go off-speed. I knew he could throw a strike. He had the confidence in himself.”
He was so dominant that opponents often changed their strategy against him. The second time St. Georges faced Walter, on May 5, the Hawks ran at every opportunity. Silver Eagles catcher Shane Talvacchio threw out three base stealers as Hodgson won 4-1.
“I thought he had better stuff today than when he no-hit us earlier in the year,” St. Georges coach Jeff Rodgers said after the game. “…We said going into this one we’d be willing to leave three, four, maybe even five outs on the bases, just trying to be aggressive and get guys into scoring position.”
Opponents tried to advance runners via bunts and steals, knowing the chances of stringing together three or four hits would be remote.
“I saw more bunts and steals and hit-and-runs this year than I’ve ever seen,” Walter said. “St. Georges tried to steal home to end the game, and that was just crazy. I’d never seen teams be so aggressive like that.”
The Silver Eagles worked to combat the small-ball tactics in practice, and Moxley said Walter did his part on the mound.
“From last year to this year, I thought he made a huge improvement in controlling the running game,” the coach said. “If a runner got on first or a runner got on second, he would change his timing and change his looks to help his teammates.”
Walter finally allowed another earned run in relief during Hodgson’s final game, a 9-7 loss to Dover in the DIAA quarterfinals. It was a bit of a surprise when his name wasn’t called in the Major League Baseball draft in June, but he’s in no rush to turn pro. Walter has already signed with the University of Delaware.
“I want to go to college,” he said. “If I had been drafted, it would have been really late in the draft anyway. It wouldn’t be worth it to give up what I have at Delaware. I’m excited about that, and I want to go to college.”
For his career, Walter set state records for strikeouts (333) and fewest walks (60). He ranks second in shutouts (eight) and third in ERA (0.86), innings pitched (178) and wins (23-3).
“We knew he’d be good, but we had no idea he would progress the way he did over four years,” Moxley said. “It was just through hard work. Brandon is one of the most competitive kids I’ve been around.”
Contact Brad Myers at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ
June 27 Girls lacrosse
June 28 Boys lacrosse
June 29 Tennis
June 30 Girls soccer
July 1 Golf
July 2 Girls track & field
July 3 Boys track & field
July 4 Softball