by Michael Smith
Grain Valley graduate and baseball player Jesse Scholtz has been trying to find his footing at the college level since graduating high school in 2019.
Creche Innovation Stars manager Kyle Clifton of the Ban Johnson Summer Baseball League helped him along the way in doing so. Before playing for the Metropolitan Community College team this past spring, Scholtz had a three-quarters delivery as a pitcher.
Clifton suggested an adjustment to Scholtz’s pitching style earlier this summer, and judging from the way he’s pitched for the Stars, it looks like the change was a good thing.
“Jesse started at a three-quarter angle, but he’s always had a downward tilt,” Clifton said. “I noticed he was at his best once his arm was more relaxed. So I just said, ‘Why don’t you just go to a sidearm delivery?’ It’s been an easy transition for him and he’s just been lights out.”
The pitching style is uncommon at every level of baseball in the United States. A sidearm delivery is when a pitcher throws from a horizontal plane rather than a more common vertical one. The ball is often released level with the player’s shoulder or lower. It’s a technique a few Major League players use like Darren O’Day and Brad Ziegler, an Odessa High School Graduate.
“I used to be a straight sidearm pitcher, but now I am a little under that,” Scholtz said. “It’s not a submarine delivery but it’s pretty far down there.”
The throwing motion came natural to Scholtz as he grew up playing shortstop, and throwing in a side arm motion is common when playing that position.
“It wasn’t that big of a jump since I used to be a shortstop,” Scholtz said. “I had been tinkering with my throwing motion. When I dropped down, it took a little getting used to. But now, it feels comfortable for me.”
Allowing the natural downward tilt to his pitching style has resulted in a breakout season for the Stars as he’s served as an emergency relief pitcher for the Stars. He’s pitched 23 innings and has a 1.52 earned-run average and a 1.26 walks-and-hits-per-inning pitched. Scholtz has also struck out 24 batters and has only walked 11 as he seems poised to be a Ban Johnson All-Star this season.
“It’s been a really fun season. We are looking to get into the playoffs. We just have to win one of our next three games,” Scholtz said. “I have been throwing pretty well. When I am asked to pitch, I just give it my all like I am going to war with my teammates.”
He utilizes a four-seam fastball, a changeup and a slider which has been effective for the former Eagle. His strength has been getting hitters to hit ground balls and limiting home runs.
“I feel like I have gotten a lot more soft contact from hitters,” Scholtz said. “I wouldn’t say I am a strikeout pitcher. I usually just let my defense work.”
He’s provided versatility to the Stars as Clifton has used him in a variety of situations, whether it’s serving as an opener for a game, pitching as a closer or being the primary replacement for when another pitcher gets hurt. Scholtz has been a Jack of all trades.
“If I have an emergency pop up, I can just throw him out there,” Clifton said. “He says he can get ready in a minute. He goes from cold to ready in a matter of seconds.”
Scholtz struggled during his red-shirt freshman season with Metropolitan Community College, posting a 8.51 ERA in 24 1/3 innings. Now that he’s vastly improved with his sidearm delivery, a much better 2022 season could be in store for the sophomore.
And if he can increase his production following his 2022 season, Scholtz could move on and transfer to a four-year college and play two more years. He hopes he can land with any team after his sophomore year at MCC, whether it’s with an NCAA Division I program or a NAIA school.
“Going down there to throw his pitches just helps his marketability,” Clifton said. “It’s something special he does. There’s definitely a market for it. I can see him playing after he’s done at MCC.”