Player of the Year Gabe Wood threw over hand
Grant Wood's "American Gothic" is considered a painting masterpiece by many art aficionados. Gabe Wood doesn't have a name for the masterpiece he created June 12 at the Minnesota high school state baseball tournament, but the Grand Rapids senior ...
Grant Wood's "American Gothic" is considered a painting masterpiece by many art aficionados.
Gabe Wood doesn't have a name for the masterpiece he created June 12 at the Minnesota high school state baseball tournament, but the Grand Rapids senior pitcher made an art of painting the corner of the plate in a 1-0 win over Chaska.
That victory in a Class AAA quarterfinal at Midway Stadium in St. Paul was the highlight of the season for the Thunderhawks and for Wood, the News Tribune's 2008 All-Area Player of the Year.
"It's definitely the most fun I've had pitching in a game," said Wood, who tossed a three-hitter and left the bases loaded when he snagged the final out on a line drive."It was an adrenaline rush going at the end. I was just glad to get the win."
What made the triumph more satisfying for Wood was that it came against Chaska pitcher Brad Hand, who had been taken by the Florida Marlins in the second round of the major-league entry draft a week earlier.
Wood (8-0, 0.90 ERA, 52 strikeouts) and Hand (8-2, 0.67) had very similar numbers, yet Hand -- the St. Paul Pioneer Press Player of the Year -- was named to the all-state tournament team instead of Wood.
Wood didn't take that as an insult, however.
"He deserves what he got, he's a heck of a player," said the right-hander, who will pitch for Division II Minnesota State-Mankato next year. "I was just happy to get the win for our team."
He did that numerous times during a four-year varsity career, which began with Grand Rapids finishing second in the 2005 Class AAA state tournament and ended with the Thunderhawks placing third this season.
They wouldn't have gone that far if not for Wood's quarterfinal gem, which he accomplished despite some arm trouble that left his start in doubt.
"They were trying to talk me out of [starting], but I wouldn't let them take the ball away from me," Wood said of his coaches' stance during pregame warm-ups. "I wanted a piece of Chaska and Brad Hand."
Outfielder Bill Martinetto said Wood confided to him during the game that he didn't have his best stuff. His fastball wasn't near its usual high-80-to-low-90 mph range.
"He told me in the second inning that his arm hurt, but there was no way he was coming out," Martinetto said.
Thunderhawks coach Bill Kinnunen left Wood in even when he loaded the bases on Hand's double, a hit batsman and a walk with two outs in the seventh.
"He gutted it out," Kinnunen said. "He knew he didn't have his velocity, but he located it well. That's a sign of a veteran pitcher -- he battled a lot and found a way to win.
"Any time you pitch against a guy who is going to sign a pro baseball contract, it gets you jacked up."
Wood may not be major-league material like Hand, but he's exactly what the Thunderhawks needed this season.
"He's been one of those pitchers we can really count on," Martinetto said. "He created a tight spot for himself [against Chaska], but got out of it just like we expected he would."
After all, a master doesn't paint himself into a corner.
RICK WEEGMAN covers prep baseball for the News Tribune. He can be reached at (218) 723-5302, (800) 456-8181 or by e-mail at email@example.com .