By Gregg A. Sims
It didn’t take long for Washington senior Brayden Walls and baseball to know they were a good match.
Walls’ father Duane first taught the lefthander the game, and the combo proved to be love at first sight.
“I started out playing catch with dad, tee-ball and it started from there,” Brayden said. “I played football and basketball at the YMCA. I quit both sports because I wanted to concentrate on baseball.”
In this case, that concentration has been well rewarded for Walls. After 14 games, the senior was hitting .514 with 19 hits in 37 plate appearances.
He has three home runs, triples and seven doubles. His slugging percentage is 1.108 and the on base sits at .620. He has 15 RBIs and seven stolen bases.
Not bad for any player, but those stats may not be the most important to Walls. He really likes to pitch.
In 34 innings, Walls has fanned 57 while walking 12 on the way to a 5-0 record. He has allowed 18 hits, five earned runs, a .142 batting average and an ERA of 1.03. He has finished four of the five games he started.
“I’ve had some good outings this year,” Walls said. “I’d like to try and stay undefeated the rest of the year. You try to stick to your mechanics and know what you can and can’t do. I try to focus and stay strong mentally. You have to do that to be a good pitcher.”
Not bad after coming off a junior season in which he hit .315 with five home runs and doubles and 25 RBIs.
Pitching wasn’t that bad either with a 5-4 mark that included 89 strikeouts to 27 walks in 55 2/3 innings that featured a 2.26 ERA.
“I wanted to hit .450 or higher, and I’ve been able, so far, to do that,” Walls said. “I wanted to get as many wins as I could. There are a couple of records I would like to get, or at least move up on. But, mostly, I want to try and play solid and contribute the best I can to the team.”
Walls says a clear mind with a plan is the key to hitting.
“I just try to hit the ball where it is pitched,” Walls said. “That seems to be what works for me. You have to be thinking about hitting and nothing else. It’s good when you know a pitcher, but we don’t always get the same pitchers each year.”
While Walls has put together some good years, it’s the experience that has helped the most this time around.
“I’d say confidence has made a big difference,” Walls said. “When I go out there I feel I have a chance to do well. I feel like I can get the job done. It’s made a difference.”
The senior has been catching attention from colleges and would like to continue his career at the next level. A future in sports, perhaps the field of therapy, is presently in his sights.
“There’s just something about the game,” Walls said. “It all just makes sense to me. It came kind of natural, and I just fell in love with it.”
For Walls, baseball has not been a love in vain.