Litsch Untouchable on the Mound

Litsch Untouchable on the Mound

Continuing exactly where he left off last season, New Hampshire righthander Jesse Litsch is the shining star of a very impressive Fisher Cat pitching staff. On Thursday he left his game against Bowie after tossing seven hitless innings, only to see the no hitter disappear with two outs in the ninth inning.

After finishing off the 2006 season by allowing only 2 earned runs over his final 21 1/3 innings of work he has started off 2007 in much the same way. Including his start last night, the 220year-old Florida native is 5-1 with a miniscule 0.96 ERA which places him second overall in the Eastern League. Through his first 37 2/3 innings on the mound, he's given up just 22 hits and has issued just 7walks. Numbers like these earned Litsch the Eastern League's most recent Pitcher of Week award, and his performance on Thursday has him as the favorite for this week's award.

Litsch, the Blue Jays 24th round draft pick in 2004 has enjoyed success at every level he's pitched in his brief minor league career. He had what some would term a "breakout" season in 2006. In 16 games at Single-AA Dunedin, he was 6-6 with 3.53 ERA. His most impressive statistic, however, was his control. Litsch walked only 8 batters in 89 plus innings while striking out 81.

This season has been much of the same. Through his first six starts, he's averaged six innings per start, allowing just over one walk and four strikeouts per game.

"He's been having a little trouble getting into those later innings," said New Hampshire manager Bill Masse. Right around the seventh inning he's been getting tired. Against Bowie (May 5th) he really gathered himself in the seventh and eighth innings to get through it" said Masse.

Although Litsch said he felt he had some more gas in the tank, he also understands that the season is a grind and he can't overdo it.

"We have a strict pitch count here and we have a good bullpen," the right-hander said. "We can call in the closer and he can get the job done."

Litsch has been keeping the Eastern League's hitters off-balance this season with a mix of pitches. Including his new found love, the changeup.

"Last year I wouldn't throw the changeup more than fives times a game. Now I'm throwing it 15-20 times a game. That's what they've told me they want me to do. That's a big pitch for me" Litsch said.

Obviously Masse is pleased with Litch's command of his changeup, especially how it sets up the other pitches in his repertoire.

"Any time you can change speeds and throw strikes with the variety of pitches he comes at you with, you're going to have success. That's the bottom line. I don't care what level you're playing at," Masse said.

"I'm throwing it during 2-0 counts, and getting groundouts. It's a good double play pitch. When I keep it down, it works with my fastball. I throw it the same way," Litsch said.

When asked if he had any pre-game rituals that he's been sticking with through this great stretch, he said, "getting up early, having a good breakfast, trying to stay with the same routine."

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