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East Ridge junior Drew Molin returns to the Raptors' varsity rotation this spring. Molin won five games last year and had an ERA of 1.66.

East Ridge baseball: Molin's mound mentality

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It didn't take long for East Ridge's Drew Molin to settle into the varsity rotation last season and establish himself as one of the Raptors' top pitchers.

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Molin threw five innings of no-hit relief in the first game of the season last year as a sophomore with East Ridge trailing 4-0 in the second inning. The Raptors rallied to win the game 5-4 and Molin continued to find ways to win on the mound. He finished the season as the team's leader in innings pitched and wins with five. Molin started five games and had an ERA of 1.66.

East Ridge head coach Brian Sprout had no trouble calling on Molin last year and will rely on him once again this season.

"He's got the stuff and he's got the mentality," Sprout said. "He's not afraid. You put all that together, it doesn't matter how old he is, he's going to go out and compete and give us a chance to win."

Sprout saw that Molin has a solid baseball knowledge to work from and wasn't worried about putting a sophomore into a big spot last season.

"His baseball awareness is through the roof," Sprout said. "He's been playing baseball a long time and he knows the situations. He knows how to pitch and not just throw and that's what makes him as good as he is."

Molin accounted for five of the team's nine victories last season and has worked on improving his velocity and mechanics through a busy offseason. Molin plays with the Minnesota Blizzard, a program designed to develop players for collegiate careers, and spends time at Englebert Training Systems in Oakdale working with staff there on a personalized program for baseball players.

The quick effect Molin made last year surprised him, but now he's ready to extend his impact. Molin spent the offseason developing a changeup and has added that pitch to his arsenal. After the fast rise to the starting rotation Molin had to slow down at times on the mound and not rush things.

"Last year I was pretty excited to play varsity so they thought I rushed it during windup," Molin said. "They've been telling me to keep it cool and that's really helped a lot. I think it's just slowing down and really working on my mechanics."

Slowing things down might seem out of character for Molin the way things have gone in his varsity career so far, but Sprout and his coaching staff urge Molin to slow down so he can pitch deeper into games and not get into a high pitch count.

"He's got good enough stuff to come back in counts and get guys out, but his pitch count would get up there and that would limit his ability to go farther in the game," Sprout said.

It's helped that Molin has developed a strong bond with junior catcher Luke Ringhofer. The two have spent their youth on the same teams and know each other's games well.

"Especially from last year he really knows how to win and that really helps out a lot," Ringhofer said. "I think he surprised some people but I thought it was not unexpected."

With a more refined changeup and a sharp breaking ball Molin has set himself up for a promising second season on the varsity staff.

"I think he's what you want as a baseball coach," Sprout said. "He's always there, he's always on time."

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