The pregame routine for Alex Wieland and Sid Warrenbrand is a prime example of quirky baseball superstition, and the lengths to which players will go to make sure that they are never broken.
It began last season, almost as an afterthought. Then sophomores at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High, the two got together moments before taking the field. Warrenbrand asked Wieland for some help stretching his legs. Like any good teammate, Wieland obliged.
“Someone must have had a really good day that day,” Warrenbrand said, “because we’ve done it ever since.”
Whether it’s Warrenbrand’s turn on the mound, Wieland’s, or a day off for both, Wieland helps Warrenbrand stretch — and never the other way around.
Wieland nearly forgot his pseudo-trainer’s duties before one of his starts this season, and interrupted his own preparations to rush to Warrenbrand’s aid.
The absurdity of it makes them both crack up. But that’s baseball. Superstition is not to be messed with.
Why roll with it? The junior righties are two of the best pitchers in the Dual County League’s Large Division this season. Through 23.2 innings, Wieland was 3-0 with 15 strikeouts and a 0.89 earned run average, while Warrenbrand had fanned 21 and posted an ERA of 0.82 through 17 innings. With their help, the Warriors (9-4) are among the best in the DCL and in the running for their 13th straight league title.
‘I don’t usually get anxious before games. But there were some nerves there.’
Wieland measures in at 5-foot-10, 155 pounds, but gets the most out of his wiry frame. His fastball’s velocity touches the mid-80s, he commands his curveball for strikes, and he has a developing changeup that can keep hitters off balance.
At 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, Warrenbrand cuts an imposing image on the rubber. His fastball, thrown straight over the top and downhill at opposing bats, also gets into the mid-80s. Though his changeup is more of a work in progress, his 12-to-6 curve can be a weapon.
To set themselves up for success, they pushed each other on the field and off during the offseason, logging innings in tournaments around the country while playing for the New England Ruffnecks.
They also worked out together at Cressey Performance in Hudson, where their training helped them both put on more than 15 pounds of muscle, mostly with leg exercises.
“There were nights after working out,” Wieland said, “where I could barely walk back out to the car.”
When one has a good day on the mound, the other makes it his business to try to match.
“They’re both very competitive individuals,” said assistant coach Matt Blake , who works with the team’s pitchers. “They have confidence that they’re well prepared to face anybody and give it their best effort.”
In recent years, the Warriors have produced a slew of talented arms, including Adam Ravanelle , a sophomore at Vanderbilt, Bentley sophomore Carl Anderson , Union sophomore Matt McGavick, and Brandeis freshman Sam Miller .
This year’s staff is headlined by Wieland and Warrenbrand, but goes much deeper.
“We’ve always tried to have seven, eight, nine guys who can throw,” said head coach Kirk Fredericks . “We put them in situations during the season so they don’t turtle up a little bit when the time comes. If we make the tournament, we get nine innings; if we play on Friday and use four, then you play on Saturday and you need four other guys that are going to be ready to do it.”
Seniors Erik Kessler and Cam Waggener , junior Owen Bautze , and sophomore Kieran Pathak have all pitched in meaningful innings, as has sophomore Tom Novick , who has adopted a submarine pitching style that’s a rarity in the high school game. The righty sidewinder helped shut down Weston with four innings of scoreless ball in a 7-1 win last week.
“You don’t get to see that much,” Weston High coach Jon Beverly said of Novick’s arm angle. “It’s definitely a different look because you’re not used to it. It’s hard to replicate in practice, and we have a fairly young team so they certainly haven’t seen it.”
Last season, Lincoln-Sudbury won eight of its last 11 games. In 2011,w the Warriors rattled off their final 18 on their way to a Division 1 state title.
The Warriors kicked off this month with four straight wins, including one over Catholic Conference power Boston College High. Behind Warrenbrand and Wieland, they’re hoping the team’s developing staff can provide another strong stretch run this spring.
“We each have a role,” Warrenbrand said. “We just have to go out there and pound the zone with strikes. If everyone can fulfill their role for the most part, we’ll definitely be a successful team.”
BAKER BOWL, PART II
After Dennis Baker Jr. and his Hopkinton High softball team beat his father’s bunch from Bellingham last month, 5-0, the two went out to dinner at Cornell’s Pub in Hopkinton.
“I made him pay for the whole thing,” Dennis Baker Sr. said. It was an amicable way to wrap up what was a very strange day for both father and son, now rival coaches in the Tri-Valley League. It was the first time they had ever squared off as direct competitors, and neither had slept soundly the night before. “I don’t usually get anxious before games,” Baker Jr. said. “But there were some nerves there. I didn’t sleep that well the night before just thinking of everything . . . On top of the fact [Bellingham] is one of the best in the league, one of the best in Division 2, I knew playing my father was just going to be a strange experience.”
They’re more accustomed to being on the same side. Baker Sr. coached his son as a member of Ashland High’s (1992-94) and the town’s American Legion (1992-95) baseball teams.
Baker Jr., a longtime baseball assistant at Ashland High, is in his first year coaching softball, and he describes his dad — in his 15th year coaching softball — as an invaluable resource in helping him learn the rules and strategies of the game.
They call and text almost every day. Even before their first game against one another, they met up and discussed a rule on player reentry.
“I don’t tell him everything, though,” Baker Sr. said with a laugh.
The Hillers (13-1, 11-0 TVL) and Bellingham’s Blackhawks (10-2, 8-2 TVL) will play again in what Baker Sr. calls “The Baker Bowl” Wednesday at Bellingham High.
Postgame dinner plans weren’t set. But if they do go out, Baker Sr. hopes he’ll be the one picking up the check.
“This time I’m going to be owing him,” he said, “because we’re figuring we’re going to win this one.”
HERE AND THERE
Milford High freshman Jenny Levine has watched senior Shannon Smith throw eight no-hitters this spring, and got a chance to chip in with one of her own last week. In her first appearance of the season, she tossed a no-no with four strikeouts to beat Canton, 12-0. . . . Speaking of no-hitters, Medway’s Zach Walker earned his second in a row while blanking Ashland last week, 3-0 . . . Acton- Boxborough Regional softball coach Mary Matthews earned the 100th win of her career when the Colonials beat Newton South on Tuesday, 5-0.Phil Perry can be reached at email@example.com.
Correction: The name of Alex Wieland was spelled incorrectly in an earlier version.