Alex Weakland has shown a comfort level on the mound this season for Dallastown High School that goes well beyond his sophomore status.
It's helped him produce many memorable moments during the Wildcats’ run to the PIAA Class 6-A state championship game Friday.
If it weren’t for the help of a former major leaguer, however, Weakland might not be the same force he’s become for the Wildcats.
After an injury slowed his progression a season ago, the young pitcher began working with former York Revolution hurler Corey Thurman at Backyard University, a baseball training facility in Red Lion.
“I’ve been working with Corey for about year, year and a half now, since beginning of last spring maybe,” Weakland said after Monday’s PIAA Class 6-A semifinal victory over State College. “He’s helped me a lot. I got hurt last year because my mechanics were bad. So after I was cleared to play I went to him and we fixed everything. And ever since then I’ve felt more comfortable on the mound.”
Clutch performer: Weakland has since blossomed into a big-game starter who has delivered in clutch spots during the Wildcats’ current 20-game winning streak.
He delivered a shutout victory against Gettysburg for the York-Adams League title. And he only gave up three hits when the Wildcats captured the District 3 Class 6-A crown against top-seeded Gov. Mifflin.
Each of those starts was the biggest of his career to that point, Weakland is likely to start an even more important game Friday against Pennsbury.
“Right now, I’d probably say we're going to lean toward Alex Weakland,” Dallastown head coach Greg Kinneman said Monday about Friday's likely starter. “That’s kind of been our formula, we go back and forth between (Weakland and Monday's starter Nick Parker).”
If Weakland is handed the ball Friday, he’ll need more of his calm, mature spirit, which he attributes to his time spent with Thurman.
“His energy, every day he brings it,” Weakland said of his favorite part of the tutoring. “He’ll explain counts and what pitches you throw on what counts and stuff. He just brings it every day.”
Thurman, a former major leaguer, spent parts of eight seasons with the York Revolution. He was an instrumental part in the Revs bringing home back-to-back Atlantic League championships in 2010-11. He finished his career as the all-time Revs' leader in wins (66), career starts (180), innings pitched (980 1/3) and strikeouts (667).
Pennsbury (21-6), while also playing in its first PIAA championship game, is no stranger to taking out hot teams. The Falcons claimed a convincing 12-0 semifinal victory Monday against District 11 champion Bethlehem Liberty. The Hurricanes entered that contest winners in 17 of their previous 18 games.
While Parker would be eligible to start Friday’s PIAA title contest, Kinneman feels running the risk of the hurler not being fully rested despite only needing 87 pitches to spin a one-hit gem Monday isn’t necessary.
“We don’t’ need to roll the dice on that because we’ve got Weakland and other arms in the 'pen,” Kinneman said. “We know that they’re going to compete for us and if we defend behind them, they’re going to give us a chance to win the game.”
Great relationship with the Wildcats: Thurman has also worked with other Dallastown pitchers, including Parker, Jake Gates and Michael Carr. They're all pitchers who have played pivotal parts in the Wildcats’ program-best season.
“The one thing I like is they’re all strike-throwers, they’re all making sure to attack early in the zone,” Thurman said. “When you attack the zone early, that’s when you get your ground-ball outs, and then you can go throughout the game and minimize your pitches.”
The former Revolution star has also cultivated a solid relationship with the Wildcats coaching staff.
“(Dallastown has) developed a pretty good relationship with (Backyard University). We spend part of our offseason there,” Kinneman said. “Corey is a great resource. He works phenomenally with our coaching staff. If someone is throwing a short 'pen session with Corey, and there’s any information to share, it’s kind of an open, two-way street, so to speak. We don’t have a problem with any of our guys going to Corey for information, and Corey also doesn’t have any problem coming to us. It’s a great relationship we have right now.”
For his part, Thurman is quick to deflect any praise to the Wildcats’ coaching staff, who he credits as being the real “masterminds.”
It’s been a fun run for Thurman to witness, one that has seen Dallastown outscore its opposition 19-3 in PIAA play and 23-3 during its District 3 conquest.
“What I’m seeing is great baseball,” Thurman said. “All the way through, good pitching, good hitting, good defense and good coaching. They do all the little things.”
Reach Eliljah Armold at email@example.com.