JEFFERSON — Ryan Brost took off as a pitcher once he realized his limitations.
“Growing up, I was always bigger and I could throw harder,” Brost said. “I realized now I couldn’t throw it by people.”
It was the best thing that could have happened to Jefferson’s junior ace. Once Brost started learning how to pitch, he quickly jumped into AP courses.
Brost is riding a streak of 22 1/3 innings without giving up an earned run, including three straight shutout starts, heading into Wednesday’s WIAA Division 2 Baseball State Semifinal against eighth-ranked Mosinee (15-5) at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Jefferson (18-9) will try to claim another state title, as it did in its last state appearance in 2014, while Mosinee is back at state for the second straight year.
“Evansville, Whitewater, Columbus ... if we lose, we don’t win conference or our season is over,” Jefferson coach Greg Fetherston said. “Ryan doesn’t like to lose at anything.”
Brost admits he doesn’t have high velocity on his heater. What he does have is movement, location and three pitches including a curve and a changeup he can throw for strikes.
“Lately his location has been prime,” senior catcher Brandon Laesch said. “You can tell he’s really been focused lately.
“He can use all three pitches in any count and his change has been really good lately.”
Brost is also not afraid to work both sides of the plate or the upper and lower parts of the strike zone. In addition, he has a unique release point, hides the ball well and doesn’t tip his pitches.
“He’s hitting locations and he fights so hard to get ahead,” Fetherston said. “His strikeouts are down but they’re not getting good barrel shots off of him.
“He’s got kind of a three-quarters delivery that’s tough to pick up. It’s a combination of everything.”
In 51 innings of work this season, Brost has given up 31 hits and eight runs, five of which were earned. He has 41 strikeouts against only 16 walks, six of which came in the sectional semifinal against Columbus.
Three of those came to Columbus slugger Connor Manthey, the first of which was intentional and the last two were clear indications Jefferson wanted someone else to beat them. It worked out as Brost allowed just one hit in 5 2/3 innings while fanning six in a 7-0 win.
“He settled down quickly and shut them down,” Laesch said. “I don’t think he’s walked many all year.
“He gets ahead and then he can do what he wants. He takes control of the at-bats.”
In a 7-0 regional final win at Whitewater, Brost threw a three-hitter with one walk and four strikeouts. He managed two five-pitch innings and was extremely efficient.
“I was always a thrower but now there’s a more knowledgeable aspect to pitching,” Brost said. “It’s about where I can throw my pitches.”
With just nine starts and a paltry 0.24 earned run average in those contests, Brost perhaps could have been used more as Jefferson’s Rock Valley title chase resulted in a seventh straight crown shared with Beloit Turner. But Fetherston wasn’t about to use up his June meal ticket in May.
“It’s the benefit of being older,” Fetherston said. “I learned. We’ve had that philosophy for a few years now.
“You need three to six pitchers and we teach everyone how to pitch as a freshman. We played six games in a week twice last year. With some of these guys, you see a big difference in where they are earlier in the year as opposed to where they are late in the season.”
Brost was Jefferson’s second starter behind ace Cam Anfang. He came into this season expecting a big workload and knew he had to be properly equipped.
“The curve was the main focus in the offseason,” Brost said. “This year I can throw any pitch in any count where last year I wouldn’t have gone to the curve ball as much.”
Fetherston still thinks there’s more velocity to come as Brost gets stronger. Brost still feels like he can improve his repertoire.
“I haven’t located all three pitches the way I want in the same game,” Brost said. “I still don’t feel like I’ve thrown my best game.”