Thursday, April 26, 2018
Sports

Brandon High senior evolves from thrower to pitcher

BRANDON — All eyes are on the man on the mound.

In baseball, there are throwers and pitchers. More often than not, most at the high school level are the former.

Chris Toney is now the latter.

"He wasn't always that way," Brandon coach Matt Stallbaumer said. "Chris would, like most pitchers, try to throw the fastball by everyone or throw that nasty breaking pitch. But he's learned to become a pitcher."

That transformation has been a work in progress for the senior right-hander. Toney, who has been an integral part of Brandon's club since he was a freshman, has evolved from a thrower to a pitcher.

"His main goal coming into the season was to limit the walks and work on his control," Stallbaumer said. "And with the new BBCOR bats, there's now reason to do that. He understands that."

Toney, who was 5-1, a 1.19 ERA and 43/7 K-to-BB split in 41.1 innings as of press time, tweaked his pitching philosophy — and delivery — over the summer.

"I did some work with coach Gary (Cates Jr.) on my release," Toney said. "He suggested I drop down a little. It was comfortable."

By "dropping down," Cates was referring to Toney's arm slot, which had typically been at a three-fourths angle. Cates got Toney to throw more sidearm, which facilitated a different action on the ball.

"I do it about 25 percent of the time now," Toney said. "But I can throw any of my pitches, except for my curveball, from that angle."

The side-winding arm slot helps Toney's fastball and change­up dip down toward right-handed hitters. His cutter has different movement to it as well, giving Toney four legitimate pitches.

"He doesn't have that overwhelming fastball but because of the movement and location, he's been outstanding," Stallbaumer said. "He's really come a long way since (his freshman year)."

Toney has also assumed the role of leader on the team.

"When I came in here as a freshman, the team was already pretty set and I was just trying to help out any way I could," Toney said.

Stallbaumer said that has changed the past two years.

"Before he was a follower because of the guys we had," he said. "Now he's a leader."

When not pitching, Toney has been playing all over the field for the Eagles.

"We were joking the other day about Buster Posey when he played every position in a game for FSU," Stallbaumer said. "(Toney) even wants to catch."

Toney has played every outfield position, shortstop and first base when not on the mound. But the Eagles will likely go only as far as their No. 1 starter takes them as the postseason looms in the distance.

"We don't have a lot of power but we play small ball and do all the little things right," Toney said. "They are things that the coaches stress and I think we have a good chance of making it pretty far in the playoffs."

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