Max Wotell will be the first to admit he is “one of the most competitive people you will ever meet.”Whether he’s on the mound or at the plate, the Marvin Ridge junior said he has a passion for winning.“I make everything a competition – from (baseball) practices and games to even picking up balls in the cage, or even playing a video game or anything like that. I just don’t like to lose, period,” Wotell said. “That’s my personality, and that’s the way I play, especially when I’m pitching. I’m going to go right at you no matter who you are. If you can hit me, then hats off to you. But I’m still not going to back down.”With a fastball that has hit 91 miles per hour, a change-up in the low 80s and a slider with great movement, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound left-hander has a rare combination of talent and attitude, according to Marvin Ridge baseball coach Mark Mennitt.“His mindset is, ‘My best is going to better than your best,’ ” Mennitt said. “Most of the time that works for him. Sometimes he does get hit hard. But he’s not going to change his approach; he’s going to come right back and go toe-to-toe with you the next time.”Wotell has been a big part of the Mavericks team since he arrived on campus, making the varsity as a freshman and playing the closer role on a 22-5 team in 2012.Last season he was a full-time starter for a Marvin Ridge team that went 26-4 (14-1), with the season ending in a 2-1 loss to eventual 3A state champion Weddington in the state quarterfinals.Wotell adjusted well to being a starter, finishing 8-0 on the mound with a 2.30 ERA and 64 strikeouts.“Max really had to change his mindset last year as a starter,” Mennitt said. “We needed him to go seven innings strong, not just one or two (innings) full steam.”While his aggressive approach didn’t change, Wotell has evolved a bit, learning to use the threat of his fastball to set up the other pitches in his arsenal.“I’ve always thrown harder than most of my peers,” said Wotell, who started playing baseball when he was 4 years old. “But I’m getting to the age where you just can’t throw it by people all the time because they can catch up to even a 90-mile per hour fastball. My fastball is still my best pitch, but I’ve learned that I have to keep people guessing. Sometimes my change-up or my slider can be just as effective in getting somebody out.” Wotell has established himself as the Mavericks’ No. 1 pitcher and is a part of an experienced and talented staff that includes three lefties – Wotell, junior Hunter Colonna and senior Zach Kuchmaner – and right-handed senior Connor Murphy.“Knowing we have so many great pitchers really makes it a lot easier to just go out and play your game,” Wotell said. “I think our pitching staff is a strong point for our team; and whenever you can limit teams (scoring), it gives you a great shot to win. We also know we have a great defense behind us. We don’t have to strike everyone out because we know those guys are going to make plays.”The Mavericks can also have a potent offense. Wotell is the cleanup hitter, despite not hitting most of the year for his club team, the East Cobb (Ga.) Astros.Wotell hit .364 with four home runs and 20 RBIs for Marvin Ridge last year and is already having another strong year at the plate. Colonna, Kuchmaner, senior center fielder Jacob Henderson and senior shortstop Jason Curtis also have big bats in the lineup. The Mavericks will need to be at its best over the next month while hitting the meat of its Southern Carolinas Conference schedule. Marvin Ridge will play series against defending 2A state champion Piedmont (April 8, 9, 11), Cuthbertson (April 22, 23, 25) and defending 3A state champion Weddington (April 29, 30 and May 2).Marvin Ridge has won at least a share of the SCC title in each of its six seasons as a program. But the team, while it is focused on another conference championship run, wants to go further this season.“Winning a state champion is our ultimate goal,” Wotell said. “We’ve seen unbelievable teams that we have beaten like Piedmont and Weddington win it all and win when it matters most. We want to win some of those big games when it matters most and give ourselves a shot to win a (state) title.”Last November, Wotell committed to the University of Arizona after “falling in love with the city (Tucson, Ariz.), and the coaches and team,” he said.While he is excited about Arizona, Wotell does want to see if he could be drafted in the 2015 Major League Baseball draft. If he gets picked high enough and the opportunity is right, Wotell hasn’t ruled out going straight to the professional ranks.“My goal and dream has always been to play Major League Baseball,” said Wotell, whose favorite team is the Miami Marlins and whose favorite player is Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Clayton Kershaw. “If I got picked pretty high out of high school, I would definitely have to consider going pro. If that doesn’t happen, I will be more than happy to Arizona. Either way, I’m just want to keep playing baseball for as long as I can.”
Tuesday, Apr. 01, 2014
Marvin Ridge’s junior Wotell looks to make his best pitch
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at email@example.com.
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