Grand Forks Central pitcher Zach Vodden spent the start of the 2019 spring high school baseball season throwing indoors at Gambucci Arena as the Knights waited for this winter’s heavy snow to melt and dry.
The 6-foot-1 righthander was outdoors on the Kraft Field mound for the first time this season on Tuesday night and the senior appeared in midseason form.
His performance in an 8-2 win over Grand Forks Red River provided the Knights some needed pitching staff stability out of the team’s ace thrower.
Vodden threw all seven innings, allowing five hits, two runs (one earned) and struck out five while walking two.
He threw 96 pitches -- 60 for strikes.
In North Dakota, where spring postponements are the norm, the abbreviated schedule can mean games stack up in a hurry.
With multiple games in a week, coaches often face difficult pitching choices -- especially with the league’s usage rules.
“That helps a ton,” Central coach Tim Gregoire said of only needing one pitcher to navigate seven innings against the Roughriders. “When our guys throw strikes, it sets up our next games and makes it easier with who we’re going to throw out there.”
No pitcher can throw more than 120 pitches in a day and different levels of usage trigger a corresponding number of days off.
For example, Vodden threw 96 pitches so he requires four days of rest.
Vodden said there wasn’t a lot of smoke and mirrors to his success against Red River.
“Just my fastball, really, hitting the spots I needed to hit, making them roll it over and giving my defense a chance,” he said.
Other than a bases-loaded jam in the sixth in which the Knights escaped the frame by only giving up one run and keep a three-run lead, Vodden worked quickly against the Riders. He didn’t allow a hit to the fifth through ninth spot in the Red River batting order (0-for-15).
“He went up there, didn’t waste any time, got in a rhythm and pounded the strike zone,” Gregoire said. “When you do that, you give us a chance to win. The few times the ball was put into play the guys made plays behind him.”