Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
TIFFIN – Starting as early as tee ball, before pitchers are even really pitching it seems every kid wants to play pitcher.
In little league most players are anxious for an opportunity to try the most glamourous position on the diamond.
At the high school level, where varsity schedules cram up to 40 games into the days between Memorial Day and July 4th every player on the roster is considered a pitcher.
Almost every player.
Clear Creel Amana senior Camden Armstrong never had the urge to be the center of attention toeing the rubber.
“When I came into high school coach asked at an early morning workout, ‘Who are the pitchers?’,” Armstrong recalled. “Everyone raised their hands except me.”
Fast forward four years from that morning meeting and there is a new question aimed at Armstrong.
Is Armstrong one of the top pitchers in the WAMAC conference?
This time Armstrong should definitely be raising his hand.
A little more than a year after making his varsity pitching debut Armstrong is the unquestioned ace and staff leader for Clear Creek Amana (18-19) entering Friday’s Class 3A, District 9 semifinal against Mount Pleasant (21-15) on Friday at 5 p.m. at Solon.
“It’s been an interesting ride with pitching, it hasn’t been very long so I’m just having fun up there,” Armstrong said. “It’s been trusting my stuff and trusting my coaches. I feel like we are really on the same page right now.”
Brent Henry would like to say he picked up on the pitching potential in Armstrong immediately at that early morning meeting four years ago.
Truthfully, the sixth-year Clear Creek Amana coach was just trying to navigate a hectic schedule when he called on Armstrong to eat up some innings.
“It was one those weeks where we had four doubleheaders and we thought ‘Who can we throw out there?’,” Henry said. “He kept hitters off balance and was able to hit spots so we just said’ lets go all in’. We started really working with him and he’s our number one right now.”
Armstrong was no rookie when he made his varsity pitching debut.
He was a full-time starter as a sophomore, mostly as a first baseman and racked up 220 at bats as a corner infielder his first two varsity seasons.
His pitching experience was limited to the occasional little league appearance and one level two start as a freshman.
Armstrong showed enough in his first two starts, losses to WAMAC West Division winner Vinton-Shellsburg and 2A state champ Dyersville Beckman to catch the eye of Henry.
“He has a ton of just baseball smarts so he was able to carry that over and he knew the game well enough to kind of fake his way through those first couple of times out,” Henry said. “Now he is a legitimate pitcher.”
Armstrong won the final two starts of his junior season and worked four innings of relief to get a win against Solon.
He allowed just two earned runs on eight hits over the final 17 innings of his junior season.
For the first time in his career Armstrong spent the offseason working on pitching and the results have been evident.
Armstrong has posted a 6-3 record and 1.77 ERA this season while ranking second in the state with 63 1/3 innings pitched.
“I worked on it a lot over the offseason,” Armstrong said. “They saw some potential in me and in the early winter workouts we started throwing a lot and refining what I have and has carried that over to his senior season.”
With just four career starts before this season Armstrong spent the early part of his senior season getting comfortable in his new role.
Armstrong got off to a solid start, going 3-2 with a 2.29 ERA through five starts.
“Really I just had to learn to pitch,” Armstrong said. “I knew what a balk was but learning how to get a better pickoff, check runners and feel comfortable with the slide step. That’s a lot of feel stuff so I’ve had to work on all that.”
The more Armstrong pitches the better he gets.
Armstrong is 3-1 in four starts since June 22, his only loss in that stretch coming in an eight-strikeout performance against Benton Community in which he allowed two runs on 8 2/3 innings.
Including in that stretch was a complete game three-hitter against WAMAC champion Western Dubuque.
“It wasn’t a surprise to us that he could pin-point his pitches and keep them off balance he was just able to do it to the extent that they weren’t able to adjust quickly enough. Three hits against a very good 4A team we will take that every time.”
Armstrong doubles as a catcher and first baseman and is hitting .258 with 11 doubles and 21 RBI and will play at Ellsworth Community College next season.
The plan was for Armstrong to be a hitter at the next level but he is open to anything after his strong finish as a pitcher.
“At college he was really thinking about going as a first baseman but he has a legitimate shot to pitch,” Henry said. “There is no doubt when he gets in the weight room and really commits to it I don’t think there is any doubt that he will add some velocity.”
Before thinking about college Armstrong has plans to extend his prep career.
After all, every start seems to be better than the last for the right-hander.
“I really do feel like I get better every day,” Armstrong said. “I actually just added a pitch so it’s just been fun and I’ve been enjoying it and feeling better every time out.”