EMERSON, Ga. – There’s no better way to really start a day than by seeing a couple aces take the mound throwing heat in the first time slot of Thursday’s action at Perfect Game Park South at LakePoint. The much anticipated pitching matchup between Lids Indiana Bulls Black’s southpaw Zack Thompson and Scorpions 2016 Prime right-hander Brandon Reitz lived up to the hype.
Scouts and college recruiting coordinators filled up the two rows of seats behind home plate and most of the standing room, as well. Radar guns drawn, there couldn’t have been a better way to start the day. It was Reitz, however, who stole the show with his complete game shutout to start off their playoff run.
Behind the support of five runs, Reitz was nearly untouchable, throwing just 87 pitches over the seven-inning gem in which he tallied 13 strikeouts and topped out at 91 mph. What looked like it would be a scoreless game for a long time turned into a lopsided score very quickly when the Scorpions put up four runs in the fourth and added their fifth the very next inning.
“I think we kind of wore them out,” said Scorpions head coach David Bultema. “It was a heck of a game. I think the second half of the game we did more of the little things better with quality at-bats and then, of course, Brandon Reitz’s performance was top-notch. That’s what we needed in game one and he definitely gave us an opportunity to get to the next game.”
Reitz started off his day on a high note, striking out the side in order to begin the ballgame on just 12 pitches.
“I really had no mindset going into the game,” Reitz said. “I knew they were a good team, so I kind of just figured, ‘let me just go right at ‘em the whole time’ and that’s what I did throughout the entire game. My velocity was pretty good, but my slider was what really caught them off guard. I think that pitch was what all my strikeouts were on, pretty much. The other thing was my changeup was really working. That really kept them off balance.”
Efficiency was the name of the game Thursday morning for Reitz. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound righty retired 13 of the 24 batters he faced on three pitches or less and had five 1-2-3 innings.
“I stick to my routine, throw strikes, get ahead in the count,” said Reitz. “Once I get ahead I kind of have a mindset of what I’m gonna do because they didn’t really touch my slider throughout the whole game. To keep them off balance, I liked to throw my changeup a little bit.”
The Ocala, Fla. native’s command could not be matched Thursday morning. Reitz threw over 70-percent of his pitches for strikes and threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 24 batters he faced. The slider was a plus-pitch for Reitz, who threw the pitch for strikes 17 of the 23 times.
“I think throwing a lot of strikes is really the key to my pitching because my mindset is if I get ahead in the count then they have to worry about what’s coming next,” Reitz said.
“Brandon’s one of our top pitchers and he showed that this morning,” added Bultema. “He controlled the zone and threw multiple pitches for a strike. He’s got good downward movement and arm side run. It’s just tough at the plate when he’s on like that, and then that slider is a pretty devastating pitch.”
But it’s not like Reitz hasn’t pitched on the big stage before. Just a few months ago the fireballer pitched in the biggest game of his young career, throwing a complete game in the Florida High School Class 4A state championship game against two-time defending champion Pensacola Catholic. He gave up just four hits and an unearned run while striking out five in Trinity Catholic’s 3-1 win. Even more impressive, it came the night after he threw two scoreless innings in the Final Four matchup against Bishop Verot.
“The coach talked to me after the [Bishop Verot] game and said, ‘do you wanna pitch or do you not wanna pitch?’ and I said, ‘Give me the ball. I wanna pitch’,” recalled Reitz. “It was such an experience I’ll never forget. We were actually the first school in Marion County to win a state championship, so it meant a lot to the country and the town and they really had our back the entire way.”
The title game was in the Boston Red Sox spring training stadium jetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla. It’s a to-scale replica of the famous Fenway Park in Boston.
“Pitching in there was amazing,” Reitz said. “I never really had any nerves going into the game. I guess I was just so focused on what I had to do. Pensacola was a good team, but we just out-competed them throughout the entire game, so it was really cool.”
All the success Reitz has recently enjoyed has been well deserved. Bultema gave Reitz high praise for his exceptional work ethic.
“We’ve got a lot of hard workers on this team, but I’d put him up there at the top,” said Bultema. “In between his outings, he busts his butt and does everything that you want a pitcher to do. Florida State’s getting a great young man.”
All the hard work Reitz has put in seems to be paying off in huge ways over the past few months. A little over a week ago, during the WWBA 17u National Championship, Reitz committed to his dream school of Florida State. He announced his commitment on his birthday, too.
“I figured I would give myself a little birthday gift and make the day even more special than it already is,” Reitz said. “When I took my visit, I fell in love. They’re all really nice and treat me like family. My family’s always been FSU fans and I just love the coaches and the atmosphere at their games.”
The next accomplishment Reitz could add to the list of an already very successful 2014 campaign could be a WWBA 16u National Championship title as a member of the always-talented Scorpions 2016 Prime, a team he said he is thrilled to be a part of.
“It’s the best experience I’ve ever had,” said Reitz. “We all have each other’s backs throughout the whole game. Off the field, we’re really close friends. I love it. That’s who I’m gonna stick with till the end. I’ll be a Scorpion forever.”