Before the season, Casey Frazier decided if he was going to be the ace, he better look the part. So, in January, the Salado junior right-hander splurged and bought himself a new glove — a pitch-black Rawlings with his name stitched in red lettering along the thumb so everyone he faced knew exactly who was getting them out.
But Frazier isn’t all flash and no substance.
“It is just (his) ability to pitch. Most high school kids go out and throw — sometimes they throw well, sometimes they don’t — but Casey’s going to be able to go out there 99 percent of the time and you know what you’re going to get,” Salado head coach Chad Krempin said. “He hardly ever has a bad day with his command.”
With the ability to exert pinpoint control of his five pitches on both sides of the plate, Frazier propelled the Eagles to big things in 2013, including Salado’s third-ever appearance in the 2A state baseball tournament, and made him an easy choice for the Daily Herald’s 2013 All-Area MVP.
“Most days I have confidence I can throw it where I want to, but other days it’s hard to throw them and I just have to throw strikes,” Frazier said.
That confidence comes from a fierce competitiveness instilled in him by a strong pitching bloodline.
“Before our first playoff game, (my dad) texted me and was like, ‘You have to go out there and compete like a ferocious badger,’ and that’s kind of what you’ve got to do. … He says some weird things sometimes,” Frazier joked.
Frazier is the second Salado junior pitcher in the last three seasons to earn MVP honors, joining former Eagles ace Bubba Luna in 2011 before he transferred to Bartlett for his senior season.
Much like Luna, Frazier doesn’t have the luxury of a 90-plus mph fastball. But it was his ability to place all five of his pitches — including a low-to-mid 80s two-seam and four-seam fastball and low-70s curveball with a late break — where he wanted that kept opposing batters guessing.
“I’m not going to overpower anybody with the fastball,” he said, “but when I’m throwing it, I just have to remember to keep it down around the knees, because if you keep it down the batters can’t do much with it, and then move it up and down and in and out, and that will usually keep them off balance.”
Frazier’s in-and-out placement is what makes Frazier so difficult to get a read on.
“As a hitter, he keeps you guessing, and when you’ve got a 3-1 fastball (count), he’ll throw a curveball in the dirt and make you chase it,” Salado senior first baseman Bryce Martin said.
Hitting out of the No. 5 hole, Frazier also came through with his bat with a .353 average, a .909 OPS, 3 home runs and 36 RBIs.
But it was on the mound that his game really took off, winning 11 of his first 12 starts on the season before suffering a tough-to-swallow loss in the 2A state semifinal against eventual champion Hallettsville — his first since a 14-0 defeat against then-No. 1 ranked Waco Robinson in his first-ever varsity start as a sophomore. Frazier had won 23 games in a row between those two games.
In between, though, Frazier (11-1) was unbeatable, finishing with a 0.90 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 85 innings, allowing just 11 earned runs and 64 hits on the season to earn District 22-2A MVP honors and third-team all-state.
Frazier’s final numbers are a bit skewed after he was thumped for seven runs (six earned) and seven hits in just 1 1/3 innings against the Brahmas after entering the state tournament with a 0.46 ERA, allowing just five earned runs over his first 83 2/3 innings.
“He never goes out and just throws a game, he always goes out there and pitches a game, moves the ball in and out and changes speed,” Krempin said.
Coach of the Year Chad Krempin, Salado
In just his second year at the helm, Krempin helped a talented Eagles squad achieve a goal the program has only accomplished twice before when it advanced to the 2A state tournament. Highly-ranked all season, Salado (34-7-1) routinely dominated its competition, eventually securing the District 22-2A championship (13-1) with two games to go in the regular season. That was a credit to an offense that outscored district opponents 131-23 and a pitching staff that limited teams with a 2.05 ERA.
Newcomer of the Year Chase Sorter, Belton, So.
The District 8-5A newcomer of the year batted. .373 and was second on the Tigers with a 1.150 OPS to go along with three home runs, 24 RBIs and 25 runs scored.
All-Area Baseball First Team
Pitchers: Roberto Delgado, Shoemaker, Jr. — A first team all-District 8-5A selection, he was 5-1, 1 save, 2.96 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 47 1/3 innings; Britton Hawes, Salado, Jr. — The first team all-District 22-2A sidearmer was 8-1 with a 1.61 ERA in 51 innings as both starter and reliever for Eagles.
Catcher: Cole Haag, Salado, Jr. — Batting out of the No. 3 hole, Haag was a first team all-District 22-2A selection with a .336 average, a .953 OPS, 43 hits, 15 doubles and team-leading 48 RBIs and three home runs.
First base: Robby Sluss, Harker Heights, Sr. — The first team all-District 8-5A selection led the Knights in hitting with a .432 average, five triples, 19 RBIs and 31 runs scored.
Second base: Peyton Person, Florence, Jr. — The first-team all-District 22-2A selection led the Buffs with a .432 average, two home runs, 19 RBIs, 36 runs scored, six stolen bases and an 1.130 OPS.
Third base: Marshall Mann, Salado, Sr. — A three-year varsity starter, Mann was second on the Eagles batting for a .369 average, 41 runs, 48 hits and 43 RBIs.
Shortstop: Jon Franz, Salado, Sr. — The 2A first team all-state selection led the Eagles in the field defensively, contributed in spot starts on the mound and led the team with a .446 average, 1.156 OPS, 50 runs, 62 hits, 21 doubles and 46 RBIs.
Left field: Michael Rae Zapata, Harker Heights, Soph. — Despite being so young, Zapata instantly established himself as an offensive and defensive threat for the Knights, finishing third on the team with a .325 average and with an .811 OPS.
Center field: Jared Janzcak, Belton, Jr. — A starter since his freshman season, the District 8-5A MVP led the district champion Tigers with a .462 average, 42 hits, 27 runs, 24 RBIs, and 12 stolen bases.
Right field: Cameron Cooper, Belton, Sr. — The first-team all-District 8-5A selection batted .363 with 25 RBIs, 41 hits, 34 runs and tied for the team lead with 12 stolen bases.
DH: Walkers Winders, Belton, Jr. — A first-team all-District 8-5A selection, Winders led the Tigers with 35 RBIs, was third on the team with 34 hits and had a .330 batting average.
P: Kyle Randall, Harker Heights, Jr.; Reagan Bazar, Salado, Sr.
C: Cullen Mayhew, Gatesville, Sr.
1B: Tyler Bark, Ellison, Sr.
2B: Chase Cryer, Belton, Jr.
3B: Tyler Torres, Harker Heights, Fr.
SS: Matthew Wallace, Gatesville, Sr.
OF: Wyatt Crum, Gatesville, Jr.; Alex Ramirez, Florence, Sr; Caden Eary, Salado, Jr.
DH: Albert Castro, Shoemaker, Sr.