A pitcher who takes the mound fighting his nerves can at least detect one advantage.
The hill enables him to stand taller than opposing hitters.
Zachary Ebert did not necessarily use that aspect to calm himself this summer while pitching for the Topeka Golden Giants. Yet he realized he was embarking on a steeper step as he tested himself in the Mid-Plains League.
“I was very nervous going in. These college hitters are very different,’’ Ebert said. “They’re just a lot more advanced and they’ve been taught a lot more things. They see pitches better.
“But I can’t say that it hasn’t helped me more than anything else. Just playing against this competition all the time, I can’t see how it does anything but help. It should have me excelling as a baseball player as I go up to the next level.’’
The recent Washburn Rural standout will make that move as the 2017 High School Player of the Year in Shawnee County, an honor presented Thursday during the Shawnee County Baseball Hall of Fame ceremony at the Downtown Ramada Inn and Convention Center.
The award was initiated this year by the SCBHOF steering committee and will annually recognize the county’s top senior player.
While at Washburn Rural, Ebert etched his name in the record books alongside the likes of eventual professionals Aaron Crow and Blair Johnson.
As a senior, Ebert tied Johnson’s school record for fewest earned runs (five) in a season and also broke the Rural record for fewest hits (22) allowed. Ebert finished among Rural’s all-time best in career wins, strikeouts and innings pitched. He was previously named the pitcher of the year on both the All-City and All-Centennial League teams after compiling a 0.86 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 2017.
“He was a tremendous competitor for us and never shied away from big moments,’’ Rural coach Jay Mastin said. “He always made the team a priority, but now you see his name on our school records alongside some pretty big names who made a living throwing a baseball.’’
One of Ebert’s biggest highlights for the Junior Blues was pitching six innings as a junior in their Class 6A regional championship win against Manhattan. Rural went on to place third at state.
“It’s amazing,’’ Ebert said. “You think about some of the guys who’ve been through Washburn Rural. I watched Aaron Crow play for the Royals, and to think I’m kind of in there with some of those guys puts a smile on my face.
“But that’s my aspiration. As a little kid you dream of playing at the highest level, and that’s never changed. I’m going to work my hardest and play baseball as long as I can.’’
The summer is proving Ebert belongs at the college level. He was named a Mid-Plains League all-star and pitched a one-two-three inning in that game following a 4-0 start with the Golden Giants.
He will move on to Johnson County Community College, a program that has been successful sending players to the next level, either a four-year college or the pros.
In addition to baseball, Ebert played basketball at Rural and was an effective long-range shooter.
“The thing I’ve always loved to do is pitch,’’ he said. “Don’t get me wrong. I love basketball, I love the game, I love shooting 3-pointers. But there’s nothing more fun than going out on the mound and play the game you love.’’
Ebert started playing baseball when he was 4 in a co-rec league. Once kids got to pitch, he jumped at the chance with support his parents, Alan and D’Ann Ludwig-Ebert.
This past winter Ebert worked with another Topeka professional, Jordan Cooper, in a throwing program.
While he has continually progressed, baseball has taught Ebert to remain modest.
“It’s the most humbling game in the world to me,’’ he said.
Contact Kevin Haskin at email@example.com or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.