It was the best of times for Old Forge pitcher Mason Boettger on Friday.
That was when the junior fired a no-hitter against Lakeland that afternoon.
It was also the worst of times as the Chiefs manufactured a run in the fifth to defeat Boettger and Old Forge, 1-0, on that run in the Lackawanna League Division IV game.
“The last time he pitched before that, he threw very well in our District 2 playoff game last year against MMI Prep, but this time he had much more control of all parts of the plate,” Blue Devils coach Tony DiMattia said. “When you have a changeup like he has, being able to throw inside on hitters is almost a necessity because he doesn’t throw 88 miles per hour, so if you don’t throw to the inner half of the plate, your changeup just becomes a slow fastball, basically. He was able to spot whatever we called, wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted to. It was one of the better pitching performances I’ve been around in my coaching career. If he throws like that more times than not, we’re going to be on the front end.”
DiMattia believes that Boettger has what it takes to be a standout starter, especially if the junior also has his fastball and curveball performing at a high level.
“I felt that I threw pretty well, felt all my pitches were working pretty well,” Boettger said. “It was disappointing not to win, but it feels nice to have an individual performance like that.”
DiMattia played a hunch when he opted to throw Boettger and figures it will pay off at some point in the season.
“I felt he was the right guy for Lakeland; we played them two times last year, and they had many of their guys returning,” DiMattia said. “I saw them play against Dunmore earlier that year, and I felt that someone with control of off-speed pitches, able to keep them off-balance, could use their over-aggressive nature against them. I thought having somebody with a good off-speed pitch like that would be the right guy.”
Based on the first game, there is little room for improvement for Boettger, but if the junior’s comfort level continues to rise, he may very well turn out to be a key factor in whatever success Old Forge has this season.
“It seems that this year he is much more relaxed. He seems to be opening up a lot more,” DiMattia said. “Last year he was kind of quiet and a lot of that had to do with the fact that he was trying to win a spot, to not platoon, trying to be the guy who is a full-time starter, and he was, but I think in the back of his mind as a sophomore, it’s always there that there are some juniors or seniors that could possibly play. He’s hitting in the middle of our lineup, he’s pitching at the front end of our rotation, he plays every day, and I think that’s just put him at ease and has relaxed him to the point of where he’s having fun.”
DiMattia believes the whole process started in the MMI Prep game had a lot to do with the improvements Boettger has made this year.
“He got a lot of confidence last year when we decided to go with him in the district playoff game. My feeling for that game was that he was a guy we could count on to go at least four innings of strikes,” DiMattia said. “If we could do that, with what we had behind him, gave us a good chance to move on.
“He gave up a two-run single in the first inning, but the next thing you know, he’s gone six innings and I don’t think he allowed more than one hit the rest of the way.”
Boettger has shown a lot of promise in those two games and DiMattia hopes the junior continues to turn that promise into wins for the Blue Devils the rest of the way this year.