TOWERING PRESENCE

At 6-foot-8, Will Anderson casts an intimidating presence on the pitching mound.

The senior right-hander with a 91 mph fastball has been mowing batters down at a high rate for Columbus East so far this season. He has 20 strikeouts in only 9 1/3 innings.

“That’s an extra four or five feet closer to the plate,” East coach Jon Gratz said, referring to Anderson’s height. “That’s always an advantage for those tall guys.”

This season, Anderson is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two appearances. But as good a pitcher as he is, he might be just a good a hitter. Anderson is batting .300 and is tied for the team lead with two doubles, a triple and four RBIs.

“I felt good,” Anderson said of his pitching appearances. “I was a little sick during the Floyd (Central) one, but my team does a good job of backing me up. I couldn’t do it without them.

“I had a little higher expectations of how I would hit,” he said. “It’s a little beginning-of-the-season rust. I think myself and the team could do better.”

At Northern Illinois next season, Anderson will likely be strictly a pitcher.

“Obviously, a 6-8 guy is projected as more of a pitcher, but production-wise, he’s been pretty successful at both,” Gratz said.

“I know I’m going to college to pitch,” Anderson said. “I won’t be hitting once I go to Northern Illinois. I’ve always liked hitting, but I’ve always kind of liked pitching more, and I have a bigger future in pitching. I know my dad and my mom want to see me hit, so it’s nice to have this one final season to hit, but I think I want to focus more on pitching in the long run.”

That might include the professional level. He has returned paperwork sent to him by six teams — the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants — and scouts from some pro teams, including the Cubs, watched him pitch last summer at a tournament in Iowa.

“I think scouts say I have a lot of projectability,” Anderson said. “I have a lot of weight to gain and muscle to put on.”

Gratz expects some scouts to be at East for today’s Lou Giovanini Invitational and for other games this season.

“If I get drafted, I don’t know it would be high enough or for a big enough amount of money to do it,” Anderson said. “I’m pretty set on going to college, but it’s always been a dream to play Major League Baseball, so that would be pretty hard to pass up.”

Anderson could be the second pitcher from Columbus in three years to be drafted. Columbus North graduate Daniel Ayers was picked by the Baltimore Orioles in 2013.

“Columbus has had a lot of good talent come out in the past few years,” Anderson said. “As a young kid, I watched how they did and how they carried themselves on the field. It was a learning experience watching those guys. Seeing really good players was a big help.”

Last year, Anderson went 5-2 on the mound with a 3.15 ERA.

“He’s off to a pretty good start so far this year,” Gratz said. “He had a chance to develop on JV a little bit as a young guy, and when he got his varsity chance he stepped up and has had a real good career so far.”

The Olympians are off to a 4-2 start this spring, with their losses coming against powerhouses Cathedral and Floyd Central.

“We’re starting off games slow, but I think as the season goes on, that will change,” Anderson said. “We have some injuries going on with Takahiro (Yamada), but once we get him back, we’ll be OK.”

East won its first Hoosier Hills Conference title since 2001 last season. This year, the Olympians will try to add their first sectional crown since 1999.

“As a team, I want us to win conference again, which I think is doable with the amount of talent we have, and we want to make a run in the sectional this year,” Anderson said. “The team expects to do it, and coach Gratz expects us to do it. If we all do our jobs, I think we can do it.”

If you go

Lou Giovanini Invitational

Saturday at Columbus East

10 a.m.: Columbus East vs. East Central (varsity field)

10 a.m.: Columbus North vs. Richmond (JV field)

12:30 p.m.: Championship (varsity field)

12:30 p.m.: Consolation game (JV field)

Author photo
Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.