VILLA PARK – T.J. Case has many of the typical traits of a lifelong pitcher.
The Willowbrook senior loves winning games, making hitters look foolish and chasing strikeout records, even if they are held by one of his coaches.
Case struck out 13 batters in a shutout victory against Leyden on May 2. Not only was it a big win in the first game of the Warriors’ three-game sweep of the Eagles, but the 13 strikeouts went a long way to helping Case catch up to the Willowbrook single-season strikeout record. Current Warriors’ pitching coach Curtis Hudson set the record with 104 strikeouts in 2007.
“I’m going for the strikeout record if I can,” Case said. “I got a couple games that weren’t that high up there. If I don’t get it, I don’t get it. It’s not that big of a deal. I’ll just go out there and pitch for my team.”
Case’s bold statement drew a laugh out of the coaches, including Hudson, but he has good numbers to back it up. Following the May 2 start, Case had 44 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings. With the season about halfway finished, that may not quite be record pace, but it is impressive.
The High Point recruit has only allowed one earned run this season and has a 5-1 record.
“His summer was phenomenal, his offseason,” coach Vic Wisner said. “He’s a guy who you see him out here doing his running right away. He’s that guy who’s always asking what more can I do, so it’s always awesome as a coach to see great results when you see a kid work so hard.”
Case said he can top out at 90 mph on his fastball, but his offspeed pitches are also quality. Just ask the Leyden hitter who ducked away of a pitch thinking it was going to be inside only to see it drop in for a called strike three.
That’s what Case said is his favorite thing about pitching.
“Definitely the Jeter dance on inside pitches,” Case said. “Butt out, calling them for strike three. That’s probably one of the best feelings. Everyone loves that, even on the bench.”
Case struggled last year, his first on varsity, with arm issues. He’s healthier this season and the Warriors are reaping the benefits.
Even with his gaudy stats and Division I scholarship, Case remains modest.
“I still don’t think I’m as good as all the hype,” he said. “I’m just trying to get better, as good as I can. There’s never a day to slack off.”
Warriors sweep Leyden
Game 1: Willowbrook 3, Leyden 0 • Mike Rothmund: 2-for-3, 2B, 3B, RBI, 2 R • Jake Cady: 2-for-3, 2B, RBI • Brian Johnson: 2-for-3, 2B, RBI • T.J. Case: 7 IP, 13 K, 2 BB, 4 H
Game 2: Willowbrook 8, Leyden 4 • Johnson: 3-for-4, HR, 3 RBI, R • Rothmund: 2-for-3, 3B, 2 R • Cady: 2-for-3, 2 RBI, 2 R; 7 IP, 0 ER, 3 K, 1 BB, 7 H
Game 3: Willowbrook 17, Leyden 4 • Tyler Vavrek: 3-for-4, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 R • Johnson: 3-for-4, 2B, 4 RBI, 3 R • A.J. Nolen: 2-for-3, 2 RBI, 2 R