A striking impressionPublished 5:11pm Wednesday, July 24, 2013
WILLIAMSTON — Over the years Hank Tice has witnessed several great individual performances, but there are not many that can match the one turned in by Kyle Leggett this year.
Playing in his first varsity season, the Riverside junior pitcher took his coach and the area by surprise as he went 14-1 with a 1.82 ERA to lead the Knights into the fourth round of the playoffs. That effort also earned him the Washington Daily News Pitcher of the Year award.
“I’ve never seen a kid have so much success in his first year of varsity,” Tice said. “We won 22 games this year and he won 14 time of them.”
Leggett was only supposed to be a piece of the rotation at the start of the year as Matt Wisniewski and Ryan Wagner were expected to lead the Riverside staff. However, a preseason arm injury sustained by Wisniewski barred him from the hill and opened the door for Leggett.
“That’s unique story in itself. Coming into the season we felt that Kyle was going to be our number three, Matt was going to be our number one and Ryan Wagner was going to be the two,” Tice said. “ Kyle was going to be our midweek/nonconference (pitcher) but Matt got hurt. Then it was up to Ryan Wagner and Kyle and Kyle just went out and got the job done.”
The 6-0, 215-pounder admitted even he was surprised by the amount of success he had this season.
“I really wasn’t expecting to go 14-1,” Leggett said. “We just had a really good offense and that helped out our pitching.”
Despite not having an overpowering fastball, the modest Leggett was magnificent this season as he struck out 81 batters in 80 innings of work on the strength of his pinpoint accuracy.
“He can just paint that outside corner,” said Wisniewski, the Riverside catcher. “He can get that outside corner and he doesn’t miss his spots often.”
The key for Leggett was to play within himself. Armed with an upper-70s/low 80s fastball, the junior knew he was not going to overpower too many batters so he modeled his game after former Braves star Greg Maddux, the patron saint of non-power pitchers.
“For me it’s all about placement,” Leggett said. “Because if I try to overpower a batter it’s going to go over the fence.”
With that in mind, Leggett made sure he consistently changed eye levels on opposing batters and kept the count in his favor.
“He just throws strikes and puts pressure on the hitters,” Tice said. “He’s always ahead in the count. He’s always 0-1, 0-2 and that gives us some flexibility to throw a high fastball or a curveball away. His command is as good as anyone I’ve ever coached.”
Leggett sparkled in his varsity debut as he struck out 11 against Edenton. From there, Leggett was dominant every time he took the mound as he won 14 straight contests and didn’t lose until the Knights’ final game of the year against Voyager Academy in the fourth round of the NCHSAA 1-A playoffs.
At the plate, Leggett was equally stellar as he hit cleanup for the Knights and batted .363 with two home runs and amassed a team-high 33 RBIs.