MONDAY, May 29, 2017

For Sailors, Cole Time' means closing time

Source: Published by Herald-Tribune - Dennis Maffezzoli

 

SARASOTA - He spends the first part of the game wearing the tools of ignorance, crouched behind the plate in virtual anonymity.

 

Then later in the game, if the Sarasota High baseball team has the lead in a close game, Cole Madden peels off the chest protector, shin guards and rips off the mask in super-hero style and goes to the top of the pitching mound in an attempt to seal the deal and close out the victory.

 

“I love it. I love taking off the gear and coming right out to the mound,” Madden said. “It’s awesome.”

 

Clyde Metcalf calls it “Cole Time,” when the Sailors baseball coach points to the bullpen to bring in Madden, his closer.

 

It takes something extra to squat behind the plate for five or so innings, throwing the ball back to the pitcher and occasionally attempting to gun down a potential base stealer and then go to the mound and throw at top speed along with spinning some breaking pitches, all with pinpoint accuracy in pressure situations.

 

Such was the case last Tuesday when Sarasota faced defending Class 8A state champion Lutz Steinbrenner in the 8A-2 regional final.

 

Madden went to the mound with the Sailors holding a 5-3 lead — courtesy of a Brooks Larson three-run homer — with a runner on first base and the tying run at the plate in the top of the sixth inning.

 

After getting through that inning unscathed, Madden returned for the seventh. The Warriors had the potential tying run in scoring position before he recorded a called strikeout to end the game.

 

“In games like that it’s adrenaline that carries me,” Madden said. “Catching is just catching, throwing it soft back. When I come out here, I feel like my arm is still good for two innings or however long I throw.”

 

While Madden is Sarasota’s best option to close out games, it is not completely ideal for Metcalf to make the move.

 

“He’s one of the best defensive catchers we’ve had at Sarasota High,” Metcalf said of Madden who has a .994 fielding percentage with just one error this season. “But he loves being on the mound. He loves that.”

 

Madden’s deep affection for pitching sometimes is a detriment.

 

“He’s pretty high strung. He’s a high-energy guy,” Metcalf said. “We have to try to pump the brakes with him a little on the mound because he loves being on the mound.”

 

In this day of pitch-count awareness, Metcalf also is very mindful of the number of pitches Madden throws per outing.

 

Because of his workload the previous week in the regional semifinals, Metcalf did not call for Madden in the fifth inning Tuesday when Steinbrenner loaded the bases with two outs or even to start the sixth inning. Instead, Metcalf let Michael Dorso finish the fifth by getting a strikeout to end the potential threat.

 

“When I went out to get Alex, Cole wanted to go in,” Metcalf said about replacing reliever Alex Ballard with Madden. “Cole threw too many pitches last week, and we just didn’t want to do that to him. We held off. It worked out well. Michael got us out of that bases loaded jam and he set it up for Cole to give us the last two innings.”

 

However, by no means is Madden invincible or automatic when it comes to closing. But he does provide Sarasota with something important: a power arm at the end of the game.

 

For the season, Madden is 3-1 with two saves and a 1.31 earned run average with 23 strikeouts in 21 innings.

 

And if Sarasota has the lead late while participating in the State Final 4, expect to see No. 7 shed his catching equipment and head to the mound to secure another Sailors victory.

 

“He’s our guy,” Metcalf said.