Christian Dale doesn”t have time for growing pains.
Even though Dale is a sophomore, he is one of the most experienced players on the Columbus High School baseball team filled with young players looking to make their marks.
They would be well served to take a page from Dale.
The right-handed pitcher/shortstop had one of his best performances of the season last week in a dual role. On Thursday, Dale struck out 16 and didn”t allow an earned run in a 6-3 victory against Greenville-Weston. On Saturday, he had four hits, including a triple, and scored four runs in a 10-9 victory against Ingomar.
For his accomplishments, Dale is The Dispatch”s Prep Player of the Week.
“We really need Christian at the plate,” Columbus High baseball coach Jeffrey Cook said. “We know he is going to do an outstanding job on the mound every game.”
Dale won four games as a freshman last season. At 2-1 with a 0.70 ERA, he is halfway to matching that total, and he already has three complete games. His other victory came against Hamilton.
“His pitch counts have unbelievably low,” Cook said. “That is what has been so amazing. He struck out 16 guys and only threw 85 pitches. He threw 84 pitches against Hamilton in the first game of the year in a seven-inning game. Christian has an unbelievable future.”
Cook said Dale helps sets the tone on and off the field for his program. He said he has made significant improvements each of the past two seasons and has grown stronger with hard work in the weight room. Off the field, he said Dale has a grade-point average well over a 3.0.
Dale said he likes helping his teammates and wants to be looked at as a leader. He hopes his attitude and approach to the game that doesn”t settle for anything but the best rubs off on the other Falcons.
“I knew we were going to be a young team this season, but we”re going to be a good team,” Dale said. “We”re going to be a team that is not going to lay down and let you win. We”re going to be a team that is going to fight and come back in the last inning, like we did Saturday (against Ingomar).”
On the mound, Dale has struck out 29 and walked only two in 20 innings. Dale credited first-year catcher Martavious McKinney for helping him do so well early in the season.
“I was just on that day,” Dale said of his 16-strikeout performance. “I was feeling it in warmups. I was throwing with (McKinney) and I told him, ”My arm is feeling pretty good today.” ”
Dale said he has confidence to throw any of his five pitches — fastball, curveball, changeup, knuckleball, and cut fastball — any time in the count. He has gained a little more confidence in his knuckleball, and relies on his cut fastball to keep hitters guessing.
In the field, Dale has committed only two errors, one at shortstop, and he is second in hitting to Nick Durrah at .393. He is tied with Durrah for the team lead in hits (11), is tied for second in RBIs (seven), and leads the way with 10 stolen bases (in 10 attempts).
Dale said he has been working on his batting stance. He said he took advice from Andy Tentoni, the father of former Columbus High catcher Josh Tentoni, and lowered his hands, which allowed him to drive the ball.
Cook said those numbers reflect the confidence Dale gained from being a starter last season. He said he and the rest of the Falcons have that confidence Dale will produce in whatever role he is in.
“He is one of our leaders on the field and that he is going to do his job and throw strikes,” Cook said. “His potential is unlimited.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.