EAST LAKE — Pitching was going to be a strength this season. That much East Lake coach Dan Genna realized heading into the 2014 campaign.
The Eagles returned nearly the entire pitching staff that led them to the Class 8A region semifinals last year, including three seniors signed to take the mound collegiately at the next level.
But as East Lake prepares to take on district rival Northeast in the Class 7A region semifinals Tuesday night, even Genna was surprised at just how locked in his staff's been all season.
“I hadn't done the numbers in a while and when I put them together again ... wow,” he said of his pitchers' gaudy stat lines last week, a day after the Eagles upset nationally ranked Sarasota High on the road, 2-1.
East Lake's top five pitchers — starters Brad Deppermann, Ryan Wall and Cameron Churchill, and relievers Steven Plaskett and Riley Choate — own a combined 1.16 ERA over 187 innings and struck out 224 batters compared to surrendering just 45 walks.
Leading the charge is Deppermann, a North Florida commit, whose fastball clocks in at the low-90s.
“He's our bulldog,” Genna said. “He proved that last year. As soon as we found out who we were playing (last week) he told me he was ready to pitch in Sarasota and he got the ball. He wanted it and he did it.”
The Eagles' big win in Sarasota — a 10-inning affair — essentially displayed the winning formula East Lake's executed all season. The starter holds onto a lead or keeps it close and then Plaskett enters to slam the door. Committed to pitch at the Air Force Academy, Plaskett sat down all nine batters he faced to lower his ERA to 0.94.
Wall, East Lake's No. 2 starter, is a junior coming off a breakout 2013 season and offers up a finesse style that contrasts with his primarily harder-throwing teammates.
“He doesn't get the strikeouts the other guys do but the defense loves playing behind him because he gets everybody involved,” Genna said of Wall. “He's pitched in so many big games for us now and he doesn't get rattled at all. His demeanor is incredible.”
If the Eagles manage to get past Northeast on Tuesday, a team they lost to three times this year, their wealth of arms will be increasingly valuable in the region finals Friday night.
As opposed to the four days between round one and two, teams get only two days of rest heading into the third. That means any staff ace that tossed the semis is likely on the shelf come Friday.
For Genna and East Lake's deep staff, that's not a problem. It's an opportunity.
To find game coverage and photos from Tuesday night's region semifinal between East Lake and Northeast, be sure to go to www.suncoastnews.com.