• 50°

Pungo’s senior ace steadies rotation

By BY BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
BELHAVEN — Stephen Fletcher has been playing baseball since he was 4-years-old and has pitched for the Pungo varsity squad since he was in seventh grade — though Raiders’ third-year coach John Holt may disagree with that statement.
While the back of his baseball card may read: Stephen Fletcher, senior, pitcher/ first baseman, Pungo High School 2002-07, Holt believes Fletcher didn’t pitch his first game until 2006.
Like many young pitchers, Fletcher came up through the ranks throwing the ball. While he has had some success doing so, becoming a pitcher is a whole different story.
A pitcher works with the talent that he has, mixes speeds, spots his pitches and out-thinks the hitter, and for Fletcher that didn’t happen until the end of last season.
The game against Northeast was a play-in game, with the winner earning the right to participate in the Tar Heel Independent Conference tournament.
Fletcher cites the Raiders 7-6 victory as the day he shed the “thrower” label, and one of the best games of his career.
On this day, Fletcher has just wrapped up a masterful performance against the Raiders’ biggest rival Terra Ceia. The Pungo hurler silenced the Knights with crafty pitching, holding them to one hit while fanning 11 to lead his team to an 6-1 victory.
After the game Fletcher credited Holt, a former profesional baseball scout, for all his success.
Pre-Holt, Fletcher said he used to throw off balance from the mound, but after working with the Raiders’ skipper Fletcher now maximizes his body. The Pungo hurler changed his delivery to liken that of the modern day standard stance made poplular by Roger Clemens.
When told that Fletcher credits him with teaching him everything he knows about pitching Holt dead panned, “It makes me feel extremely well that he can lie that good.”
Though Hotlz was joking, deception plays a big part in the pitchers’ success. Equipped with a fastball, change up, curveball and a sinker opposing batters are never sure what pitch Fletcher will come with or where it will break.
The only other person that knows that is catcher Joey Oliver, who Fletcher says has been vital to his production on the mound.
Holt said the two form a solid battery and have improved throughout the year.
Holt said what makes Fletcher so tough to hit is his ability to locate his pitches.