Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014
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East Lake sophomore solidifies pitching staff

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EAST LAKE -

If East Lake' Ryan Wall harbored a defeatist attitude last spring, who knows how it might have affected the Eagles' high-flying path this season. Entering this week, the sophomore owned an unblemished 7-0 record and a team-low ERA hovering around 2.00.

“For a sophomore he's pitched so many big games for us,” East Lake Coach Dan Genna said after Wall earned the win last Thursday over rival Tarpon Springs. “He's had more starts and innings than we've anticipated and he's come through every time. Every time.

“And that's a kid I cut last year.”

That's right. Wall, the pitcher with the best win-loss record in Pinellas County on arguably the area's top team this year, didn't make the cut after his freshman-year tryout.

But rather than hang his head or react with negativity, he decided to use the moment to fuel his preparation for the following season.

“I thought it made me better,” Wall said about being turned away last year. “It made me work even harder to make it this year.”

That increased determination and drive to improve showed through this year, Genna said

“He's a perfect example of someone turning it around, focusing, getting in better shape and working at it. Right now he might be our best pitcher, so by far he's the biggest surprise pitching-wise. He had a great fall and he put himself in a good position.”

Wall's breakout showing has done more than just that, though; it's helped put the Eagles in a much better position as well.

East Lake improved to 19-3 overall with Monday's 13-2 win over Dunedin at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. The team recently learned it had earned the No. 1 seed when the Class 8A District 8 tournament starts next week by winning a coin flip over Sarasota Riverview.

Considering the East Lake coaching staff pegged pitching as the team's biggest unknown coming into this season, Wall and the rest of the staff's collective performance may be the driving force.

The Eagles came into 2013 without a clear-cut, top-of-the-rotation guy like they had with Eric Hanhold the past few seasons. Genna previously said that he was confident in his stable of pitchers, but it would be up to them to prove their readiness on the field.

The current mix is working in East Lake's favor more often than not — and it's a deep mix. Wall is joined by Cameron Churchill as the top-two starting options, and Brad Deppermann, Steven Plaskett, Tyler Gardner and Dante Valenti see lots of work from the bullpen or in spot starts.

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