Wheeler’s Woodruff throws heat as scouts watch

By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

WHEELER – Although he didn’t get the win, Brandon Woodruff was pleased with his first start of 2011.
“The first couple of innings seemed pretty good,” Wheeler’s 6-foot-4, 220-pound ace said following last Friday night’s 4-3 loss at home to MHSAA Division 1-1A foe Thrasher. “But as the game went on, about the third or fourth inning, I felt a little tired and left the ball up.
“Overall, I think I did pretty good for my first outing.”
Friday night’s outing wasn’t an ordinary debut for a high school starting pitcher. When the Wheeler senior threw the first pitch of the game, nearly a dozen Major League Baseball scouts stood behind the home-plate backstop to clock it with their radar guns.
“Besides going to showcases, that’s the most I have ever seen at a high school game,” said the right-hander who signed with Mississippi State in November.
And Woodruff didn’t disappoint. Topping off at 92 miles per hour, he struck out 10, allowed three hits (two were infield hits), walked one, hit two batters and surrendered a single run in five innings of work.
Woodruff ended up with four strikeouts in the second inning after Brent Lauderdale, the second batter of the frame, reached first base safely on a third-strike wild pitch. The only balls hit in the inning were foul balls that traveled lengthy distances away from the field of play.
“It’s still in the process of getting in shape,” Woodruff said about his right arm during the first full month of the season.
That is why Eagles head coach John David Horn had him on a pitch count against the Rebels, the high school senior added.
“It was good for me,” Woodruff said of the 70 pitches he threw. “I just gotta build my way up.”
At the plate, the Eagles’ No. 3 hitter saw nothing to swing at, even if there were two outs in the inning and no one on base. He walked four times, with two coming on four straight balls and one being a formal intentional walk.
“We weren’t going to let him see a pitch,” Thrasher head coach Richie Taylor said about last year’s Daily Journal All-Area selection. “One swing can tie it up or take the lead with him. He’s a great player.”
While Woodruff looked good on the mound – changing up speeds, freezing hitters with his breaking balls and ultimately keeping the Thrasher batters off balance – his counterparts, Josh Walden and Cole Lauderdale, held the Eagles to three hits.
Despite finishing with a no decision, Woodruff proved he could pitch well with the spotlight shining brightly on him.
“Kind of at first,” the standout pitcher said when asked if he felt nervous pitching in front of so many scouts, “but it got me a little pumped up, getting ready to pitch in front of them and showing them what I can do.
“It was pretty exciting.”

Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or john.wilbert@journalinc.com.