The thing that impresses Providence High baseball coach Danny Hignight the most about junior pitcher Timmy Townsend isn’t how Townsend can make a baseball almost seem to dance with his control, or his 9-0 record as a sophomore – or even his status as a Collegiate Baseball preseason All-American.
Hignight just admires how calm Townsend is, no matter the situation.
“He doesn’t really get caught up in the moment,” Hignight said, “and that is really, really neat. Most guys get too amped up and too scared when they’re pitching in big games. But he doesn’t. And there’s no secret of what he’s going to throw and when he’s going to throw it. You’ve just got to hit it.”
So far, not many teams have been successful at doing much offensively against Townsend. He earned all-state honors as a sophomore. He won a N.C. 4A Western Regional game against eventual state champion North Davidson last season. This year, he threw six of seven innings and allowed one run and five hits in a win over state power and rival Ardrey Kell. On March 3, he shutout defending N.C. 3A state champion Marvin Ridge.
Townsend, 6-foot-1, won’t pitch in Tuesday’s SoMeck 8 home conference showdown with Charlotte Catholic (8-2, 7-0) for first place. Hignight said Townsend will go Friday, when Providence (8-3, 6-0) plays at Olympic (4-6, 2-4). But the Providence coach likes his chances whenever he calls on Townsend – no matter the situation.
“He has more depth with his pitches than most guys,” Hignight said. “He knows what his strengths are.”
And for Townsend, who turns 17 next month, it’s all about ball movement.
His fastest throws are between 81 and 83 miles per hour, a little slower than many elite prospects his age, but Townsend has an unusual delivery, just above a sidearm motion, and he can really control the ball. He is 3-1 so far this year.
“It’s a different arm angle than you’re used to,” Ardrey Kell coach Hal Bagwell said, “but there’s life on the ball. The ball moves. And he can move it left to right, right to left and up and down. I wouldn’t say it’s rare (for a high school pitcher to have that amount of movement), but to command it like he does is rare. Any pitcher who can command a mitt like that is pretty good. Throwing a strike is not command, but hitting the part of the plate that you want to, that is command. Not many pitchers do it as good as he does and he can handle pressure situations with the best of them.”
Townsend said his favorite two pitches are his two-seam fastball and his curve. He said even his teammates say it’s frustrating hitting his pitches.
“They say it runs in on you, so it jams you up,” Townsend said.
This year, Providence only has three regular returning starters back – All-American catcher Ray Torres, shortstop Satchel Jerzembech and right fielder Cameron Bare – so Townsend is being looked on as a leader for a team that has reached two straight Western Regional championship series and won the N.C. 4A state championship in 2015.
“It’s definitely more difficult losing a bunch of players, but we have to learn to come together as a young team,” Townsend said. “It’s about competing and playing as a team and stop worrying about yourself. I just have to do my job.”
Hignight said he knows if he needs one win, or even one save, he’s got the guy, in Townsend, to do it. He also thinks, despite having lots of new faces, that the Panthers can make a run for a state championship this spring.
“Our goal,” he said, “is to get better every day. Last I checked, the only thing people really care about is what you do in June. The outside world judges players like Timmy and coaches on state championships. It’s totally unfair, but it is what is.”
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr