In his junior season for the Smith-Cotton baseball Tigers, Dalton Christian often struggled to get out of the first inning when he was on the hill.
Hits walks and errors behind him mounted and often got him sent to an early shower or to the outfield or first base.
That trend continued through most of his junior season and the early portion of the Sedalia Travelers summer season.
However, about mid-season, it was almost lke a light came on and Christian climbed to the top of the Traveler’s pitching rotation, finding an effective sinking fastball, a sharp, breaking curve and a changeup that seemed to baffle hitters.
“I think the big thing is confidence,” said the 17-year old right-hander. I have confidence that I could throw my pitches and throw them to spots. I had confidence in my defense behind me and I had confidence in my catcher that if a runner gets on base, he can throw them out. That takes a lot of the pressure off me.”
Christian did not log a lot of innings his junior year of high school, after getting taken out early. That began to change particularly late this summer with the Travelers.
“It just seemed like the more I pitched, the better I got,” said Christian. “I got a chance o throw a curveball and changeup.”
A big change came when he consistently kept his pitches low in the strike zone, as compared to throwing high in the zone in high school. Keeping pitches down, Christian got a lot of ground ball outs while he gave up a lot of hits and walked several batters in high school.
It was a big help with Jordan Dey coming back off elbow surgery and took over at first base and gave the team a solid hitter in the No. 3 spot in the order. When catcher Zach Bishop joined the team from Marshall on a permanent basis late in the summer, Christian felt less pressure on his shoulder.
“Jordan is a great hitter and does a good job at first,” said Christian. “Zach gave me the confidence that if I gave up a hit or walk, he would throw them out.
“I give all the credit to our defense,” said Christian. “They made the plays behind me.”
Maturity has played a role in his turnaround as well. Gone are the temper tantrums he used to have on the mound.
“I would give up a hit or a walk or they would make an error behind me, I would get frustrated,” Christian said. “I wasn’t mad at them, I was mad at me, but it has gotten better.”
Christian was particularly effective during the legion post-season this summer.
In the first round of the district at Blue Springs, Christian allowed four rnns (two earned), in seven-plus innings in a 9-4 win over Hi Boy Post 340 to get the win. In the zone tournament at Sedalia, he beat St. Joseph 4-0, pitching eight innings, allowed one earn run, seven hits, struck out eight and walked four.
In the zone championship, he pitched 5 2/3 innnigs of one-hit ball and was leading 3-0. He allowed a batter and then picked the runner off. The runner swerved into the infield grass to avoid the tag and was called safe at second instead of being out or being called out for being out of the baseline. Post 21 went on to score three runs in the inning and Christian left after six with the score tied and got a no-decision.
Christian has been to baseball tryouts and camps in St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield, and has played with Team Missouri in the Sunbelt Conference Tournament in Oklahoma twice and Monday attended a Royals tryout at Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City for a team that will play four games together with at least one at Kauffman Stadium. He will play for a team coached by Jud Kindle this fall.
“Growing up I always thought basketball was my favorite sport,” said Christian. “But as I’ve gotten older, I think baseball is as a pitcher I’m responsible for what goes on and I have an impact on everything.”
He played Little League in Sedalia with traveling team called the Blue Sox coached by his father Darrin until eighth grade, played three years with the Junior Legion and is now in his second season with the Travelers.