About five or six professional baseball scouts congregated behind home plate at East Hall Park, radar guns and pencils frantically tracking North Hall High senior Reese Olson’s every pitch.
Seeing such spectators has become commonplace for Olson, who awarded their attendance with another gem on the mound.
Olson tossed six shutouts innings as the Trojans claimed the series opener against Region 7-3A opponent East Hall with a 6-0 win Monday, April 2, in Gainesville. Unfazed by the group of major league scouts representing a few different organizations, the lanky right-hander struck out seven batters while permitting just four hits.
“There have been at least a few (scouts) at every game I’ve thrown this year,” said Olson, who is currently committed to Georgia Tech. “I just focus on what coach preaches to me, just doing what I have to do and making sure I get guys out.”
His efforts helped North Hall (15-3, 10-0 region) earn its 13th straight victory, even on a night when its bats needed a few trips through the lineup to get going.
Vikings senior pitcher Trey Campbell went toe-to-toe with Olson for four innings, and he potentially could have stayed in longer if not for a throwing error that allowed the Trojans to break a scoreless tie with two unearned runs in the fifth.
Though East Hall (10-9, 5-5) didn’t threaten much before that point, Campbell kept his team around by leaving the bases loaded in the first and fourth innings.
“Campbell is a good pitcher, and he kept us off-balance,” North Hall coach Trevor Flow said. “He was able to throw his off-speed pitches for strikes. But I still didn’t like our approach at the plate early, leaving the bases loaded as many times as we did.”
The Trojans stranded three runners again in the fifth, but not before finally breaking through on the scoreboard. Junior right fielder Caleb Clark led off the frame by reaching safely on a bunt, and an error on classmate David Seavey’s sacrifice bunt allowed both men to get in scoring position.
Then Olson gave himself the only cushion he needed.
His single up the middle drove in Clark, and senior catcher Charlie Erickson (2 for 3) drew a walk in the next at-bat. Following a pitching change, sophomore third baseman Tyler Brooks plated another run with a walk of his own.
“It took us awhile to get started … but that’s where the momentum started to swing,” Olson said. “It’s big to score first, and I was happy to help us do that.”
North Hall added four runs on five hits in the sixth inning. Clark (3 for 5, two runs scored) crushed a double that was a few feet away from clearing the outfield wall to drive in junior center field Dylan Wiley, who singled through the left side to open the top half of the frame.
Erickson provided an RBI single two batters later before sophomore first baseman Jackson Dyer plated another pair of runs with a double scorched off the first baseman’s glove. Seavey scored the second of his two runs after bunting safely.
That was more than enough support for Olson, who was ruthlessly efficient while improving to 6-0 this season.
Fifty-seven of his 80 pitches were strikes, and only three runners reached scoring position against him. Olson struck out all three batters — two looking — in the second inning, and he ended his night by inducing a 4-6-3 double play that stranded a pair of runners in the sixth inning.
Despite East Hall managing solid contact against Olson, only junior right fielder and nine-hole hitter Matt Lacey (two singles) seemed to have him figured out.
“Pitching drives everything, and the guys feel like they can hold it down when (Olson) is on the mound,” Flow said. “We know we’re always going to get teams’ No. 1 pitchers against him, but we feel good if we can get three or more runs and he’s on the mound.”
Junior pitcher Kelton Kieschnick quickly retired the side in the seventh inning to seal the win for the Trojans, who host the Vikings for Game 2 at 5:55 p.m. Wednesday at Jody Davis Field.
With Olson likely done pitching in the three-game set, pro scouts probably won’t be lingering around the ballpark during the next two games. But if a few happen to show up, Flow is confident his ace can handle the pressure as usual.
“I’ve had no worries about it up to this point,” Flow said. “We talk about it with him and with the other guys. It’s something that the more you try to hide it, the worse it is. … I’ve seen 10 or more scouts at a few games, but Reese has always stayed focused and handled it well.”