HEPPNER – Heppner is a football town, but this spring the baseball team is forcing people to sit down and pay attention.
The Mustangs are 8-1 heading into a doubles program at Riverside on Saturday, May 8, thanks in large part to the work Hayden Hyatt did on the mound.
The senior right-handed pitcher pitched 30-2 / 3 innings in six games. He allowed nine hits, one unearned run, walked 16 and struck out 40 strikes. He is 6-0 with an earned-run average of 0.00 sterling.
Hyatt’s performance surprised him and Mustangs coach Tim Wilkins.
“This is the first time I’ve had someone like this and I’ve been here for five years,” Wilkins said. “It’s nice to have him. He’s always worked really hard, but his speed has really improved over the past couple of years.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Hyatt said the key to its success this season didn’t just come from endless hours of work.
“I just have all the faith in the world in the guys around me,” he said. “I hope they will make parts. When I don’t have to worry about it, I can do my job better.
These guys include Jackson Lehman on first base, third baseman Toby Nation, Mike Jaca on second and shortstop Carson Eynetich. All but Nation grew up together in the program.
“Toby just moved here this year from Oklahoma, but he’s a solid player all around,” Hyatt said. “He has my full confidence when I’m on the mound.
No one has put a radar gun on Hyatt this season, and he’s not sure he wants to see those numbers. While he doesn’t faze batters with his speed, he does have a few shots that catch them off guard and first-year wide receiver Cameron Proudfoot calls a good game.
“One of my favorite shots is my curve ball, and my second favorite is my articulation ball,” Hyatt said. “Cameron is learning and doing pretty well there.”
Hyatt said he doesn’t regularly keep track of his stats, but is aware of his zero earned run average.
“It’s such a surreal thing,” he said. “It’s definitely a one of a kind thing.”
But this is something the Oregon School Activities Association keeps track of.
The lowest ERA for a season (a minimum of 50 innings) belongs to Rich Farthing of Corvallis High School, 0.11, established in 1969. Devin Muir of Days Creek is second at 0.12 (2010) and Jacob Fricke of Glide is third with 0.19 (2015).
There are a state mandated number of locations of no more than 110 per day, and there are required days of rest. Hyatt has been able to reduce its pitch count so that it can pitch on Tuesday and Saturday. His season high is 99 shots in six innings against Sherman on May 1.
Hyatt is one of five quality pitchers in the Mustang team, along with Nation, Jaca, Eynetich and Tucker Ashbeck.
“We’re deeper at the pitcher than we’ve ever been,” Wilkins said. “Toby is close to Hayden in terms of speed, but he’s not that precise.”
While its performance on the mound is unmatched, Hyatt is still under development this season.
He’s hitting .233 with two doubles and four RBIs, but the big hit came from Lehman, Ashbeck, Jaca and Kason Cimmiyotti.
“My plate game failed me and it was frustrating,” said Hyatt. “I’m working hard enough in training to improve that.”
Wilkins said it is only a matter of time before Hyatt picks up its pace.
“He always hit really well and had a high average,” said Wilkins, “but having a gap year affected everyone’s swing.”
It has been over six years since the Mustangs had a winning season on the diamond. An 8-1 start is not something Hyatt intended.
“I can speak for the guys around me, they’re surprised too,” Hyatt said. “It took a lot of intensity, dedication and communication, an all time high since I’ve been in high school. We put our nose in the wheel this season, that’s for sure. “
Hyatt also plays football for the Mustangs, but sports beyond high school are not on his plans.
“Baseball would be my # 1 choice if I had to take it to the next level,” he said. “I don’t have any offers so I think I’ll keep going to work.”
Before that, the Mustangs have six more games to go and Hyatt has the option of adding their name to the OSAA record books.