By Kyle LoJacono
Wesley Chapel baseball has been known for its pitching in recent years, and the squad’s current ace fits right in line with that trend of strength on the mound.
Senior Chase Ingram has led the Wildcats’ (11-5) rotation the last two years. The 6-foot-3 righty said his time working out of the bullpen as a freshman and sophomore allowed him to learn from former teammates like Brandon Mumaw, Marcus Crescentini and Matt Wynne, all who are currently pitching on scholarship in college.
“My first two years we were stacked with older pitchers, so I was just relieving a few times,” Ingram said. “I learned a lot from those guys, and last year I had to use that because I was starting a lot. This year seems a little bit easier with that experience.”
Wesley Chapel coach Chuck Yingling said he always saw a special quality in Ingram.
“We were pretty fortunate with Chase because he’s always had the mental side of the game,” Yingling said. “He just had to begin to develop more pitches. … He feels he can win every time no matter who he plays, and you have to have that.”
The feeling with his teammates is mutual.
“With Chase we always know we’ve got a really good chance to win,” said junior first baseman Turner Imhoff. “We just have to get him a run and that’s all he needs. He gives us so much confidence.”
Ingram said a big focus for him this offseason was developing his knuckle curveball to go with his fastball and change-up. The combination has him posting a 6-0 record with a 1.19 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 47 innings.
The Wildcats ace also captured a bit of program history March 8 when he threw Wesley Chapel’s first perfect game in a 4-0 win versus Gulf. Ingram needed only 68 pitches to toss the gem while striking out 13 batters.
“I was a little tight in warm-ups because it was kind of cold,” Ingram said. “Sometimes you feel great and you pitch bad, and some games you feel all right and pitch good, and that’s what happened. All three of my pitches were working that night.”
Ingram, who struck out 16 batters the week before against Fivay, didn’t realize he was close to a perfect game until it had almost happened.
“With two outs left in the seven inning I threw a strikeout, and the catcher threw it down the first base, and I started thinking that nobody has been on base,” Ingram said. “I was like I really wish I hadn’t realized this right now. … After that we got two groundouts, so it was just a few pitches after that.”
Yingling said Ingram has the personality to maintain his composure in such pressure situations.
“The thing with him is when he doesn’t do a solid job, which isn’t often, he puts it on his shoulders,” Yingling said. “Other kids his age sometimes don’t do that. Some blame it on the umpire or someone for not making the play. Chase doesn’t do that. He has a commodity, and when people in college begin to realize that they’ll jump on him.”
That is if the pro ranks don’t come calling first.
“To me, he’s a draft choice this year,” Yingling said. “Probably in the late rounds, and he might not get drafted because we’re Pasco County and they don’t realize who he is. He’s throwing consistently 86 to 88 miles per hour right now, and I think he’ll be hitting 90 before the end of the season. Hopefully with the perfect game and striking out 16 the week before will help get him some more attention.”
Ingram is projected to start the Wildcats’ home game against district rival Anclote April 5 at 7 p.m.
—Follow Kyle LoJacono on Twitter: @Kyle_Laker
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