For a young man who would prefer not to be within 150 feet of the mound, Billy Flamion is having a heck of a season as a pitcher.
Central Catholic's sophomore lefty, who would much rather patrol centerfield than toe the rubber, had another strong outing Thursday, hurling five innings in the Raiders' 7-2 victory over Gustine.
"It was a better day than usual for me," said Flamion, now 6-1 with a 2.65 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings. "I was able to keep the ball down."
But when his first two pitches of the sixth inning soared high above the strike zone, Central Catholic coach Mike Glines came out of the dugout to make the change.
Flamion seemed almost relieved as he handed Glines the ball. He ran back to the dugout to switch gloves, then sprinted out to centerfield — home sweet home.
"When I came out there in the sixth to pull him out after two pitches, he didn't beg or plead," Glines said. "I told him 'nice job' and he walked off.
"I've been told he's just too good of an athlete to pitch past high school and he's told me he doesn't like to pitch," Glines said. "The way he can run and throw from the outfield, they'd never waste his talents as a pitcher."
Flamion and senior Patrick Trinkler have emerged as the leaders of this young and sometimes erratic group of Raiders, according to Glines. Central stands atop the Western Athletic Conference at 6-1 and is 11-4 overall, but Flamion said there still is something missing.
"We have a bunch of new players who haven't played together much, so we're still trying to bond," Flamion said. "We're real young, also, so we're trying to do the fundamentals well. If we come together I still think we can accomplish a lot."
Glines, in his inimitable way, was a bit more harsh in his assessment of the Raiders.
"It's been disappointing for me so far," he said. "There's talent enough here to play better than we have. We haven't played this game yet the way Abner Doubleday meant for it to be played. Everybody is going to make mistakes, but the hard part is convincing kids that the important thing is how you react after those mistakes."
And that area, Glines said, is where Flamion has emerged as a leader.
"Billy struck out three times Tuesday," Glines said. "All three times he sprinted back to the dugout, he got his glove and he sprinted out to centerfield. He kept hustling and didn't let the strikeouts eat him up. So many kids hang their head."
In Thursday's briskly played game, there was no time for either team to get frustrated.
It was tied 2-2 as Flamion and Gustine senior lefty Ben Griset matched efforts. Griset would end up going the distance and striking out nine, but gave up three runs in the fifth on RBI singles by freshman Chris Sauls, Justin Burkett and Sebastian Hernandez, and two more in the sixth in a rally started by Flamion's double to left-center.
It was Flamion's lone hit, but he reached base all four times he came to bat on two walks and an infield error. He'll take a .522 batting average into the Raiders' next game.
"I think we're playing good right now," he said. "And today we hit pretty well against one of the better pitchers we'll see all year."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.