HAMMOND | Brandon Valentine doesn't try to be intimidating.
In fact, he's a pretty down-to-earth, well-spoken, quiet and focused young man. But put Valentine on a 10-inch baseball mound, and suddenly his 6-foot-6 frame looks bigger and the ball looks smaller.
"He's got a nice, high leg kick, and when he's 6-6, it feels like the pitcher is right on top of you," Morton coach Scott Lush said. "When you're 6-6, he is."
"When you're taller, obviously you can get close to the plate," Valentine said. "When I release on a downward angle, it's a lot harder to get a good hit. They'll just beat it into the ground or barely hit it. It helps out a lot.
"When I'm standing on the mound, I add a few more inches and I look like I'm 7-foot just standing on the mound. I feel like I intimidate a lot of hitters just because of my size."
Valentine, the Governors' right-handed hurler, comes into his senior season with a college choice looming, a summer of velocity-building and the memory of his last high school loss fresh in his mind.
In the 2010 sectional semifinal, Valentine was given the start against heavy favorite Munster. He quickly gave up three runs in the top of the first inning and asked to be pulled out of the game.
Lush had more confidence in his pitcher than the junior had in himself and sent Valentine back out, where the latter promptly pitched his best final six innings of the season. He finished with five strikeouts, a walk and 10 hits given up in the Govs' 5-3 loss to the eventual sectional and regional champion Mustangs.
"I needed to prove to my team and myself that I'm as good as everyone says that I am," Valentine said. "I needed to be a dominant pitcher.
"After that game, we knew we came that close to beating one of the top teams in the area and we know we belong with them."
The Govs return a strong core of their hitting and the stumbles of young pitchers like Valentine can now be overcome with added experience.
How Valentine ended the season was motivation for the summer, when he was clocked at 88 mph while pitching for the Hammond Chiefs. This spring, he expects to hit 85 with the fastball that is the strength of his arsenal.
Valentine struck out 31 batters last season and finished with a 4.73 ERA. He worked the summer to put on some muscle and a little weight, and added even more velocity to that fastball.
That has brought out the colleges coaches. Valentine is looking to take his talents to either Vincennes University, Brown Mackie College (Kan.) or Lewis & Clark (Ill.).
"He's a strikeout pitcher," Lush said. "What's good about him is that he hits his spots and works on top of the batters and makes them hit his pitch."