WESTPORT — Staples’ Carter Kelsey has been close to unhittable this season.
The senior righty is 5-0 with a 0.22 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 31.1 innings.
It wasn’t always the case.
When he was an underclassman, Staples coach Jack McFarland knew a couple of things.
“We knew he was 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, and he threw the ball hard,” McFarland said. “He didn’t have much command.”
So the Seton Hall commit worked with his pitching coach, former MLB pitcher and Norwalk native Kevin Morton, and sports psychologist Dr. Paul Goenewall.
“Consistency is key, and I have put a lot of work in with meditation, working with a sports psychologist to have that consistent thinking,” Kelsey said.
The senior referenced a game from earlier this season. He walked the first batter of the game.
“Normally I’m not sure I would have been able to recover from that because I would be anxious, nervous and think ‘I can’t throw a strike today,’” he said. “You have to have consistent thinking and trust the process that you have put into place.”
With his 14k in 6 IP performance v Ridgefield, RHP Carter Kelsey in 22IP has 47 Ks 5 BBs and has given up 1 ER, ERA 0.318 #GoWreckers #21Outs #PlayBig #Dominant @WreckerBaseball #ctbase @fciac @GameTimeCT @DaveRuden pic.twitter.com/S0I0v7xLTG
— Staples Baseball (@WreckerBaseball) April 30, 2021
The process for Kelsey is to stay in the moment and control what he can control. He looks for a place on the field, then stares for a moment so he maintains focus.
“I remember to breath, it’s just a kind of reminder that you just have to keep cruising,” he said. “You can’t change anything in the past, you just have to stay in the present and go pitch by pitch.”
At Staples he looks at the left field foul pole, on the road, he finds something else and it was Morton, who told Kelsey that he would look at the Citgo sign in left field of Fenway Park to refocus.
“There’s always a point when I am pitching — in the third or fourth inning — where I kind of lose focus, work a little too fast. I step off the mound, look over there (left field foul pole) and just focus,” he said. “It’s a contributing factor for me being a more mentally sound pitcher.”
Kelsey throws a “heavy” fastball that hits 91 miles per hour consistently — he has reached 93 — and also throws a slider.
“He throws hard and he comes right at you,” McFarland said. “It’s not a secret what is coming at you and how it is coming.”
Opponents of the 10th-ranked Wreckers haven’t been able to do anything with it.
— Dave Stewart (@DStewartSports) April 10, 2021
He’s allowed just nine hits, eight walks and four runs — one earned — this season.
“He is smiling at you, he’s laughing while he is throwing the ball right by you and then he mixes in a slider and you can’t touch him,” Staples senior Alex Deutsch said.
Kelsey’s smile is more a grin than laughter.
Off the field he said he loves to joke around and hang out with his friends, but when he toes the rubber an alter ego takes over.
“On the mound, I just kind of want to embarrass you and make you look foolish at the plate,” Kelsey said.
Kelsey’s performance has led the Wreckers to an 12-4 record.
The program won the last Class LL championship held back in 2019.
Despite a much different team this year, the standards remain the same.
“They feel (the pressure),” McFarland said. “But they love the pressure.”
Kelsey is one of three captains with Deutsch and Justin Lessing. Deutsch is the lone player on the team that started a game in the 2019 season. The trio credits watching the 2019 team and taking in all they could.
“You learned a lot about work ethic, responsibility, how to be a leader,” Deutsch said.
Despite losing a couple of games the Wreckers are primed for the FCIAC and Class LL postseason tournaments.
“With all these losses, there is one thing (per loss) we can put our foot on and get better in practice,” Lessing said.