New role hasn’t slowed down Oxford’s Roth
Just before the Oxford Chargers were about to bat in the fourth inning, head coach Chris Baugham asked Houston Roth, his sophomore standout, how he felt. Roth had just pitched three innings and around 40 pitches the night before in Game 2 of their best-of-three MHSAA Class 5 playoff series with Lewisburg.
Baughman made it clear to Houston Roth that he didn’t want to overuse him, that his future was more important than any series win. Roth, who has gone from the team’s No. 3 starter to the top of rotation, responded and said he felt fine.
The question continued each inning until the seventh, when Roth went back on the mound. Baughman had already started to warm up Drew Phillips and Jason Barber and was ready to get him out if needed. But he wanted his bulldog to at least get a shot a complete game.
A full seven innings didn’t come to pass, but Houston Roth and the Chargers earned the win, advancing to play Germantown in the next round of the playoffs that start tonight.
Houston Roth, who leads the nation in wins with a perfect 11-0 mark, has been a huge reason why the Chargers are 24-8 overall and still in the hunt for a state title.
Baughman, who fought back tears of joy after the win, said the improvement, in a short amount of time, has been phenomenal.
“At the start of the year, we had him penciled in behind Jason and Hunter (Roth) and we talked early in the year how he could definitely turn into our No. 2. And now, heck, he has 11 wins and leading the nation from what I hear. He just wins, he goes out there and throws four pitches for strikes on a consistent basis,” Baughman said. “He’ll throw a fastball, changeup, curve and slider. He’ll run a two-seam (fastball) up on your hands. He’s not afraid to do that and I would say that is his most improved pitch or the most improved characteristic. He has the ability now, and he has the mental ability, to where he doesn’t mind going in on people.”
Roth, the son of Todd and Lisa Roth, is not overpowering. His velocity is in the low to mid 80s, but his location is so good, especially at such a young age, his speed is even more deadly.
“He throws all four pitches for strikes and that makes 81 look like 85. People struggle with that. He battles, he’s a competitor. He wants to win and the guys feed off that. And they play well behind him,” Baughman said. “He’s definitely matured over the last three years. He’s become a pitcher, he understands how to pitch. We’ve talked over the course of the year that there are still improvements he can make in that aspect, but as far as learning how to pitch, he’s just made tremendous strides in how to get people out. Ever since he’s been a seventh grader, he’s always been around the (strike) zone. He’s always done what he’s doing now, and won. He’s just been in the shadows a little bit and this year, with the way our pitching has lined up, he’s now been able to take an even more important role than he has in the past.”
Barber, who is also sophomore, and Houston Roth both give the Chargers a great 1-2 punch when it comes to winning a series. The challenge, at least from Baughman perspective, is that the team keeps improving every game and every year.
“He can definitely add more velocity to his fastball. He wants to do that but that’s going to be the challenge. These kids use the saying ‘stay hungry’ and as long as both of them do that, they’re going to continue to be successful, year in and year out,” Baughman said.
Hunter Roth, a senior pitcher in the rotation, has meant a lot to Houston Roth, Baughman said, who added that he might mean more to him than people realize.
“He’s such a competitor, there have been times where he can let a bad inning and situations get to him. He can let me get to him sometimes with some things he doesn’t necessarily like and when he does that, he’ll come in the dugout, and there have several times this year that Hunter has grabbed him up and said ‘Look, shut up and pitch,’” Baughman said. “I think Hunter being in the same situation two years ago as Houston is in now, he’s been there, done that. He’s got two coaches, one that gets on him and is making sure his arm angle is right and then he’s got another guy, when he’s mad at me or mad at the situation, that is telling him to grow up and let’s go. Hunter has been great in that role and I think that’s helped Houston from a mentality standpoint.”
When Houston Roth isn’t pitching, he’s helping in the field at second, and batting seventh, or eighth, in the lineup. He has driven in five runs, while three of his seven hits have gone for doubles.
“In the field is the one place that people don’t see him, because he throws every other game for us, but when Matthew (Guyton) went down, Houston was the one that stepped up, stepped up big time and been consistent at second base,” Baughman said. “We’re getting out of him in the seventh and eighth spot what we need to get out of him. The job he has come in and done in the place of Matthew on defense has definitely helped us out.”
The expectations Houston Roth had for himself, coming into the year, was to fill the role as the No. 3 starter behind his older brother. When Hunter got hurt, he knew he had to step up. That’s why he didn’t want to come out of the game last Saturday.
“My arm felt great and I just knew I needed to be out there because Hunter’s arm was hurting because he pitched in Game 2 as well. I was telling Coach Baughman to keep me in, to keep going,” Houston Roth said. “It really has been an amazing year. Coming into this year, if you would have told me I was going to be 11-0, I would have thought you were crazy. I didn’t have any pressure on me, I just had to be the best I could be and I’ve done well.”
There are two reasons why Houston Roth said he’s had so much success.
“It’s all about location and then movement with your pitches. That’s all I can do,” Houston Roth, adding his brother has been a big reason for his success. “He’s always helping me in the dugout and coming off the mound after a bad inning or something. He’s talking me through it and even coming up there on the mound. I need him to do that at some points.”
Oxford was labeled as an underdog coming into its series with Lewisburg, a role Houston Roth said the team doesn’t mind.
“Let them underestimate us. We’ll come out and show them how we play ball,” Houston he said. “I’ve heard all year how Lewisburg was going to beat us. I think we’re going to be a lot more confident, really, really confident going into the Germantown series.”
Houston Roth added that his father, who coached him and his brother in youth baseball, was also a big factor in how well he’s done.
“My dad has coached since I was 5 or 6. My first year for travel was 8, my first competitive year. He’s been coaching forever,” Houston Roth said. “He tells me that he’s happy with me, but he tries not to make it a big deal or think about it too much.”