Ethan Paschke may not throw a 90+ mph fastball, but he does possess two good traits: a knee-bending curveball and a mastery of the Nixa batting order.
The Glendale junior fired the Falcons into the semifinals of the Class 5 District 11 Tournament on Saturday afternoon, pitching 5 2/3 innings amid a 6-1 victory.
The Falcons play Ozark at 6:30 p.m. in Monday’s semifinals in Nixa, with top seed Kickapoo taking on Branson first at 4:30. The title game is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday.
With a combination of curveballs, fastballs and an occasional changeup, Paschke limited Nixa to only three hits during his time on the mound.
“The biggest part was that I was getting my curveball over the plate for strikes,” Paschke said. “(Nixa’s hitters) weren’t really expecting that. Around the fourth inning, they started picking up on it and I had to throw fastballs. They were late on it, because they were expecting curveballs.”
Paschke has held Nixa to no runs over 12 2/3 innings pitched this season. He threw a complete game in Glendale’s 8-0 win against Nixa in late March.
“With that sharp breaker and a good fastball, that’s a good combination,” said Glendale coach Mike Snodgrass. “The curveball is in the back of (hitters’) minds to the point where they really have trouble getting around on his fastball because of that. His changeup is not bad, either. But that curveball can be deadly on hitters.”
Glendale (22-7 overall) built an early 3-0 lead with an Eli Wells RBI single in the first inning and a pair of sac-fly RBIs in the third.
The Falcons added what proved to be three vital insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth. After a wild pitch pushed the Falcons’ lead to 4-0, Trace Clinkenbeard laced a two-out, two-run single up the middle to make it 6-0.
Nixa pushed one run across in the top of the seventh, but reliever Tyler Wilmsmeyer got a bases-loaded strikeout to end the game.
The outcome meant a bit of payback for Glendale, which was upset by No. 6 seed Nixa in last year’s district quarterfinals as the Eagles went on to an unlikely appearance in the Class 5 state quarterfinals.
“Nixa always plays well at the end of the season, so we did not come in with the intention of overlooking them,” Snodgrass said.
Paschke retired the first two batters he faced in the top of the sixth, before being pulled in favor of reliever Luke Parrish.
“I was upset, but I was just thinking about what we could do for the team and what I have to do for the team, and that’s to come out and get prepared for the (district) championship game if we’re in it,” Paschke said.
MSHSAA’s new pitch count rule may have had an influence on Snodgrass’ decision to pull Paschke, who finished with 60 pitches.
Paschke would be eligible to pitch in Tuesday’s district title game, but Glendale’s first task will be getting past Ozark in Monday’s semifinals.
Glendale won the regular season meeting in early April, 7-3.
“I don’t know if I leave him in (without the new pitch count rule),” Snodgrass said. “If I wanted to come back with him on Tuesday, I wouldn’t have gone much further regardless. I might have let him finish the sixth.
“It was a risky move to pull him, but we’re playing to win (the district).”
Eagles starter Corey Lummis allowed three runs over 5 2/3 innings, before Glendale tacked on its three late runs against Nixa’s bullpen.
Nixa finishes 10-15 overall and graduates a six-player senior class.
The start of the game was delayed about 10 minutes after Nixa head coach Howard Greenwood was accidentally hit in the head with a bat during pregame warmups. Greenwood was taken to a hospital for medical treatment and did not coach in the game.