Prep baseball: Hope Christian staff getting plenty of relief – Albuquerque Journal

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Truth be told, Glen Copeland – perhaps being only half serious – would rather everyone not know how the sausage is made inside the Hope Christian baseball factory.

But the success of his mad scientist methods this season cannot be denied.

The Huskies, who improved to 9-3 following a 5-0 road victory at Albuquerque High on Wednesday, are taking a novel approach to the 2017 season.

Or are they?

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“I don’t think it’s that radical,” Coach Copeland said after the Huskies finished off the Bulldogs.

The state’s new pitch-count restrictions, combined with Hope’s thin roster, which goes only 11 deep, got Copeland thinking outside the box during the offseason about how the Class 4A Huskies might manage the season on the hill.

“To an old-school guy, you’re looking at starting a guy and going with him as long as he could go,” Copeland explained. “It’s not how we’re built as a pitching staff.”

His solution?

To run four, five, even six pitchers out every game. Almost no exceptions.

Not a single pitcher on the Hope staff has logged more than four consecutive innings in a game all season, and often their appearances are brief, an inning or two at most. Wednesday, Hope used four pitchers to two-hit AHS.

As a result of spreading the wealth, pitch counts – which have become one of the talking points of this prep baseball season, as teams try to adhere to the new restrictions – are not even remotely a factor for Hope Christian. And Copeland is able to use his players as pitchers more frequently this way.

“It’s different,” Huskies senior Estevan De La O said, “but it’s working.”

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De La O is generally regarded as Hope’s best pitcher, and he is 4-0, but even he is getting only a couple of innings here and there. A four-inning outing for him last Saturday, in a 5-1 win over St. Pius, was a marathon outing by Hope’s revised standards.

Copeland came across something called TTOP – or, Times Through the Order Penalty – in his offseason reading. It’s basically a metric that measures a hitter’s success, or even a lineup’s success, once they face the same pitcher more than once in a game.

“The more a team sees a pitcher, the more success they’ll have against him,” Copeland said.

So, Copeland figured if an opposing lineup was unable to settle in against one arm slot, and faced instead a variety of looks, it would be to Hope’s benefit. One of the other features is that Huskie players have had to learn to play multiple defensive positions because of so much juggling on the mound.

“It did take some adjusting,” De La O said. On Wednesday, he made two terrific catches in center field.

While Hope doesn’t have any major power arms, the Huskies have given up only 41 runs in 12 games.

“Everyone,” said sophomore Noah Chavez, who pitched the final two innings Wednesday, “has to throw strikes.”

But this upcoming stretch will probably speak volumes about Copeland’s system and how it might work into May.

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The Huskies, who have met St. Pius and Eldorado in the last five days, face Volcano Vista on Saturday, Atrisco Heritage on Monday, and then have a three-games-in-two-days trip to Portales – one of 4A’s best teams – to open their District 4-4A slate next weekend.

“I told everyone (before the season) that they’re a pitcher,” Copeland said. “When you’re a small school like Hope, you have to have a lot of flexibility.”

Hope last won state in 2013. Copeland asked for, and received, a more bulked-up schedule this spring.

And of this, Copeland seems rather sure: You won’t see any Huskie pitcher registering a complete game this year. He appears ready to continue this into the state playoffs next month, when low pitch counts could allow him to run the same pitchers out day after day.

“The future of baseball is not the old model but an army of super relievers,” Copeland said.

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