Austin Perry: 'Having his arm at shortstop allows us to make a lot of plays in the infield'
SYCAMORE – Zach Carlsen does it all for the Sycamore baseball team.
The senior shortstop is one of two Sycamore players to play in every game this season. Through 22 contests, Carlsen is tied for most hits (19) and runs (14) on the team, and he leads the Spartans in stolen bases (six). He’s considered by many teammates as one of Sycamore’s best defenders.
Although the Spartans (8-13, 4-8 Northern Illinois Big 12) haven’t lived up to coach Jason Cavanaugh’s expectations this season, Carlsen continues to be a constant for a Sycamore team fighting to finish near .500. He went 1 for 1 with three walks during Sycamore’s win Thursday over DeKalb.
[Photos by Mark Busch – firstname.lastname@example.org]
“I’m just working the count,” Carlsen said. “I like getting early fastballs and working from there. When the count is in [my] favor, I try to put it in play. That always helps.”
His maturity inside the batter’s box has translated to maximizing opportunities. He’s tied with Logan Riley and Kevin Sink in most walks (nine).
Sycamore third baseman Austin Perry said playing alongside Carlsen makes his job easier.
“Having his arm at shortstop allows us to make a lot of plays in the infield,” Perry said.
Carlsen’s success hasn’t been limited to with the glove or the bat, either. He’s a frequent reliever and holds the second lowest ERA (1.54) on the team, behind Logan Riley’s 1.35.
His dominance was on display Tuesday, when he had a relief appearance for starter Justin Pottorff. Carlsen pitched 1 2/3 innings, striking out four, including three straight to secure the 4-2 win over DeKalb.
Carlsen offers a unique approach on the mound. He throws a majority of his pitches side-armed, but will occasionally sneak in an overhand fastball. His uncommon style often results in opposing batters whiffing at air. Carlsen ranks third in strikeouts (18) and boasts the lowest on-base percentage allowed (.241).
He credits a lot of his success to his parents. His mother, Lisa, is the women’s basketball coach at Northern Illinois, and his father, Chris, has been coaching baseball for as long as Carlsen can remember.
“He’s a pitching coach and teaches me everything; we’ve done baseball together for a long time,” Carlsen said. “I started throwing underhand my freshman year. It was kind of an experiment, and it just took off from then.
“Having a submarine guy always helps. You don’t see that a lot in high school. When [opposing batters] see that, you always look at the faces of the other team. It’s kind of funny to watch.”
All jokes aside, Sycamore has six games remaining in the regular season. Carlsen acknowledged Sycamore’s sub-par record, but he believes the Spartans have what it takes to rally into the postseason.
Sycamore hosts a Class 3A Regional play-in game against Marengo on May 21.
“I think our mental toughness needs to be stronger,” Carlsen said. “We’re getting there as a team. Developing now into the postseason will help a lot.”