By JOE McFARLAND
It might have felt cold for most baseball players. But for Will Undershute, eight degrees (Celsius) made him feel right at home as he took to the mound for his first college start.
The Jacksonville, Illinois sun made it feel like a typical early-spring day in Alberta, and the Okotoks native started rolling early as his Southeastern Community College Blackhawks took on Highland Community College on Feb. 25. Undershute retired the first nine batters he faced, and he felt like something big was happening. During the middle innings he admits he lost focus a bit and allowed a couple of walks, but he kept going.
“Going into the seventh, my arm was feeling really good,” Undershute told Alberta Dugout Stories. “It was a cold day, so I was just trying to be efficient.”
He also found another gear, as he struck out the final two batters he faced. That put an exclamation point on a seven-inning no-hitter for the Dawgs Academy grad and euphoria for his Blackhawk teammates, who pounced on the left-hander after the final strike.
“I saw one of my buddies, (catcher) Austin Martin, he was the first one to run out to me to say congrats and that was a pretty cool feeling,” said Undershute, who wound up striking out six and allowing four walks. “I look up to him a lot.”
Looking back on it, head baseball coach Justin Schulte said Undershute was able to dominate with his fastball, saying he brought the heat on 68 of 86 pitches, not throwing a lot of off-speed. He said Undershute was also in command of the inner-half of the plate, which allowed him to set up outs with change-ups and outer-half pitches. But it has been Undershute’s perseverance that impressed him most.
“He’s come a long way,” Schulte said. “He didn’t have a great fall here and cleaned some things up and he’s worked extremely hard at it, too. He’s worked just as hard as anyone we have here and he got rewarded. The hard work paid off.”
Undershute, who represented Alberta at the T12 event and played for Canada’s Junior National Team, texted his mom as soon as he got back to the clubhouse.
“I was just hoping that my parents would have seen it,” he said. “It was just a really cool feeling.”
TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW
It wasn’t just Undershute’s performance that has given Schulte one of the best seats in the house over the last few weeks.
Just two days earlier, Chas Sagedahl set the bar high for his Blackhawks colleagues when they took on Lake Land College. Striking out the first nine batters he faced, Sagedahl went on to ring up 15 batters en route to the 5-0 win, which is marked down in the record books as a seven-inning perfect game. He allowed no walks and no hits in the Feb. 23 affair.
“I was just thinking I needed to just keep going,” said Sagedahl, a native of Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin.
“Nothing really changed in my emotion, besides I have to get these outs for my team to help us win,” he said, adding he could feel something special happening in the third inning of that outing.
The soft-spoken southpaw said he was hitting his spots on both sides of the plate and wasn’t going to mess with a good thing.
“After I got the last out, I just looked over at the dugout and everybody was running over and jumping all over me,” recalled Sagedahl, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 180 pounds.
“I didn’t really think about it until two days later. Then I finally realized what I had done.”
ALL JOKES ASIDE
An interesting twist in this story is that Undershute and Sagedahl are roommates at Southeastern. So the friendly ribbing was bound to ensue.
“Earlier in the day, my buddy (and fellow Blackhawks pitcher) Bryan Callaly was joking around with me saying ‘so what are you going to do to respond to him?'” the 6-foot-2, 195 pound Undershute laughed.
The digs continued after the stellar outing.
“I was joking with him afterwards,” Sagedahl admitted. “Like ‘how could you walk three or four guys?'”
But much like when pitchers have to shake off bad starts, the two couldn’t bask in the glory of their stellar week for too long. They were both back on the bump within a week.
“It’s always on to the next game,” Undershute said. “Coach Schulte preaches to me all the time about the next pitch, and I take that as the next pitch of the game, you throw that pitch and you keep going. Same with the next game.”
“I think young kids at this level, early on in their careers, it’s the biggest learning experience if they have immediate success to see how hard it was to get to that point and then you see it let down once in a while,” Schulte said. “Hopefully these guys keep learning from it.”
Schulte admits he was watching the pitch counts for both starts, as he feels that their long-term careers are more important than no-hitters and great starts. But he can’t help but look back in amazement.
“Their pitch counts were down and they finished it on their own,” Schulte said. “They were cruising.”
It will be a game Undershute won’t forget anytime soon.
“It was very special, especially given that it was my first college start,” the 18-year-old beamed. “Just being a part of a great program and having that attached to my very first college start was unbelievable.”