Ace on the hill

Published 8:34 am Friday, April 24, 2009

FRANKLIN—Ben Devore has been an important part of the Franklin High School baseball program the last three years. This season, Devore is among the leaders of a resurgent Broncos team that has already won more games than last season.

Devore, a four-year starting pitcher, is the ace on the hill for the Broncos. His repertoire includes four different pitches, one of which is unusual for a high school pitcher. He throws a two-seam and four-seam fastball and a changeup. But it’s the knuckle curveball that gets batters going. Devore learned the unusual pitch in eighth grade when the traditional curveball would hurt his arm.

“With the knuckle curve, you really don’t have to snap your wrist off at the end. It doesn’t put as much stress on your elbow. You kind of throw it right down the side,” Devore said before practice on Tuesday. “I learned it in a few weeks of practice and in the back yard with Dad.”

The stress actually comes to the batters, who could see the pitch anywhere in the count.

“I use it for probably a third of my pitches. I’ve got it comfortable enough where I will start out with it or use it deep in the count. I have been known to throw it 3-2. With the bases loaded, I might go with the fastball,” he joked.

It has helped Devore, and the other Franklin pitchers, that the Broncos have been an offensive machine this year. Going into Wednesday’s game against Sussex Central, Franklin had four straight double-digit run games. The team is turning speed into scoring.

“Our offense is really dynamic this year. We’re getting on base and taking off and stealing,” Devore said. “We scored nine runs in the bottom of the fourth against Surry on Monday. We can score runs like there’s no tomorrow.”

Franklin head coach Jay McKinney, in his first season, has used a speed philosophy.

“We have a lot of speed. We get guys on and we move them around and that’s our game,” McKinney said. “We feel like we have an offense that we could put a crooked number up any inning.”

McKinney also depends on Devore’s quiet leadership.

“He does anything I ask of him. He’s a quiet leader and he’s got that quiet confidence. He lets everyone know that he is in control,” McKinney said. “He keeps that even keel. He can be vocal when he needs to be.”

Devore will head to William & Mary this fall, where he said he might try to walk on the baseball team.

McKinney said he has the skills to succeed in college.

“No doubt he has the demeanor and work ethic. He has a live arm and is willing to do whatever the coaches want him to do,” McKinney said.