Having an ace pitcher on the level of Battle Ground’s Zach Hauser can provide a substantial boost in confidence among teammates.
For proof, look no further than the Tigers’ 4-0 record to open the 2022 baseball season.
The senior right-hander has earned two wins and a save with zero runs allowed in 13 innings, highlighted by Thursday’s 2-0 win against Prairie.
Carter Hotchkiss and Trevor Long accounted for the Tigers’ runs in the third inning on a fielding error and wild pitch, respectively. It was the Tigers’ lowest run output of the young season, and yet, with Hauser completing seven innings with nine strikeouts, two walks and three hits allowed, it was all they needed.
“What you see today is what he consistently does,” Battle Ground coach Billy Hayes said. “Every time he takes the bump, we know we got a chance, and his teammates all know that. He’s special.”
The win came three days after Battle Ground pulled out a 4-3 win in extra innings against Kelso thanks to a Josh Baldwin RBI single in the eighth inning. Hauser earned the save by striking out three straight Hilanders batters in the bottom half of the inning.
Three days later against one of the Tigers’ biggest rivals, with a few extra pitches to account for, Hauser had no doubt about going the distance.
“I wasn’t supposed to pitch on Monday, but it got super close and (I) was like, ‘If we score in the eighth inning, I’m going in,’ ” Hauser said. “Today, this was my game. I wasn’t going to let anyone else pitch, so I just went out there.”
Although Hauser was critical of a few instances Thursday getting into full counts, he was pleased with his fastball placement, particularly later in the game.
The stretch included a fast and furious fifth inning with three straight strikeouts on just nine pitches (four strikes looking, four swinging and a foul).
“After every pitch, I just wanted to get back on the mound and keep going,” Hauser said.
The senior has been committed to University of Utah since 2020.
As for a possibility of pursuing a professional career, Hauser said: “I’d say if I gain a couple more miles per hour I’d think about it. I want to get up to 95, 96 before I consider that.”
Hauser faced another Pac-12 Conference baseball prospect in Prairie senior Reece Walling, who’s signed with Washington State. In three at bats, Hauser struck out Walling before earning a pop out in foul territory and a ground out.
Afterwards, the two were all smiles talking to each other as their teams went through the handshake line near home plate.
“It’s awesome, he’s one of my best buddies,” Hauser said. “It’s so fun to play with him, he’s so good (and) it’s always good competition.”
Confidence has fueled Hauser and the Tigers thus far. They’re eager to see where they can go with their ace.
“We’re excited to see what he does when he moves on from here,” Hayes said. “We’re lucky to have him now.”
BATTLE GROUND 2, PRAIRIE 0
Prairie 000 000 0—0 3 2
BG 002 000 x—2 3 0
Pitching — Sam Apodaca 4 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 K, 2 BB; Carson Gawley 2 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 K, 1 BB; Highlights — Wren Cecil 1-3; Demetri Garifalakis 1-2; Nathanael Merritt 1-2.
Pitching — Zach Hauser 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 9 K, 2 BB; Highlights — Carter Hotchkiss R; Trevor Long R; Jackson Hotchkiss 1-3; Timothy Linster 1-2, Hudson Massie 1-2.