Deerfield’s Weston King came up huge for the Knights last weekend when they fell into a 1-0 hole against Brookwood, but the senior pitcher tossed a heck of a Game 2 to tie the series. DWS went on to win, sending them to this weekend’s state title series. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
WHO:Deerfield (19-10) at Tattnall Square (25-7-1).
WHAT: GISA Class AAA state baseball championship, best-of-three series.
WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday — Game 1; Game 2 will be 2 p.m. Saturday, followed immediately by Game 3, if necessary.
LIVE UPDATES: twitter.com/AlbHeraldSports.
ALBANY — Weston King is undeterred and unshakable, complete with an unmistakable presence when he steps on the pitcher’s mound.
But none of those characteristics are why the Deerfield-Windsor senior right-hander is nicknamed after a 1,400-pound tractor.
“(Former) assistant coach Ty Kinslow started calling me ‘Big Kubota’ because I was going to go out there and mow them down,” said King, a sturdy two-way lineman on the football team and the starting center on the basketball team. “He called me that last year, and it stuck.”
Like King’s presence on the mound, it was perfect.
“That describes him,” DWS coach Rod Murray said of the nickname. “He just keeps going forward.”
And he’s not afraid to put the entire team on his back every step of the way.
On a team full of leaders and talented pitchers, King exemplifies the best in all of them, intrepid in his demeanor and always willing to go the extra mile or survive a final inning.
King may or may not start Friday’s Game 1 of the GISA Class AAA state championship series against Tattnall Square, but “Big Kubota” will certainly step on the mound at some point in the best-of-three series — likely when the Knights need him the most.
That’s exactly how it’s been so far in Deerfield’s postseason run, as King lasted all eight innings and hurled 111 pitches in a quarterfinals clincher against Westfield and then won an elimination game against Brookwood in Game 2 when he pitched a complete game and allowed only seven base runners.
He almost never steps off the mound until the final out is recorded.
“When I step on the mound, I want to go the whole game,” said King, who plays first base when he isn’t pitching. “I want to impact my teammates in a positive way. I don’t like to give the ball up because I am a competitor, but at the end of the day I just want to do whatever it takes.”
And when he is on the mound, all he does is throw strikes.
“He isn’t going to blow you away with speed or with a certain pitch, but he is going to throw strikes,” said DWS senior and University of Georgia commit Davis Hines. “He is going to put the team in position to make plays, because the ball will be put in play. But we have a defense that consistently doesn’t give away runs with errors.
“He puts the pressure on their offense. He says that he is going to put it out over the plate and see if they can hit it. They try (to hit him) and they have, but he has confidence that we can make the plays behind him.”
King boasts a 2.00 ERA and is 8-2 this season — leading the team in both categories.
He was just as dominant last season when he went 8-2 with a 1.85 ERA. He was used sparingly on the mound as a sophomore — a 2011 season when the Knights made it to the state championship series but were swept by Westfield — but that’s when Murray discovered his hidden gem.
“He has a will about him,” said Murray, who is in his sixth year as head coach at DWS and trying to guide the program to its first state title in a decade. “He pounds the strike zone, and that’s important when you are pitching. It all starts and stops with that guy in the mound. We have known that Wes would be able to help us in some big games for a long time here.”
King embraces the opportunities to pitch the must-win games. And he has pitched in several throughout his DWS career, including Saturday against Brookwood when the Knights trailed 1-0 in the series and handed the ball to King for Game 2.
He scattered three hits in the first four innings, didn’t walk a batter the entire five-inning game and got nine of the 15 Brookwood batters he retired to fly out to center field.
The Knights entered the game rattled from an ugly Game 1 loss, but King, the team’s steady-going leader, stabilized the situation.
“I think it gives the entire team confidence,” King said. “As teammates, you have to trust each other, and they can trust me to go up on the mound and throw strikes no matter what.”
King, like so many of his fellow seniors, acts like a de-facto coach in the Knights’ dugout, and, at times, is even that quiet, reassuring voice to Murray.
“Weston is a very mature kid, and when he puts his arm around you and tells you, ‘Coach, it’s going to be alright,’ he has just as a calming presence about him,” Murray said.
The Knights have other strong pitchers around him in Austin Murphy, Coleman Butler, Justin Glover and Wil Akins, but nobody throws strikes quite like King.
“He maintains his focus and just keeps digging, pretty much just how he pitches,” Murray said. “If you watch him up there he just goes up there and grinds. He keeps grinding outs and grinding innings.”
King, who plans to attend Darton next year only as a student and won’t continue his baseball career, didn’t throw complete games in only two of his starts this season, and his longest outing came in a regular-season game against Brookwood when he threw all nine innings and outlasted Brookwood ace Jordan Bradshaw for the win.
It’s the type of game that can be draining, even for somebody has determined as King.
“I wouldn’t say my arm hurts, but it does get tired,” King said. “It takes a day or two to recover. It’s now gotten to where it will take till Wednesday or Thursday for everything to be 100 percent again (after pitching a weekend game).”
But he always comes back just as strong, just as dependable.
Just like a Big Kubota.
“If it comes down to (me pitching a key game in this series), I am going to relish the moment and am going to be excited and give it everything I have,” King said. “I want to be up there when the game is on the line.”