KOUTS — He doesn’t play like a freshman.
Kouts ninth-grader Owen Winters might be the player on the Mustangs’ roster with the most baseball experience, coach Jim Tucker said. He’s been playing a full club schedule for years, most recently with the Morris Chiefs.
“He plays (with the Chiefs) two or three times a week in the middle of basketball season, when you’ve got no legs,” Tucker said. “It’s hard to talk him out of it though.”
Tucker tried to talk Winters out of going back out to the mound twice Monday. It didn’t take either time.
Winters struck out 11 batters over seven innings in the Mustangs’ 6-2 win over Morgan Twp. He convinced Tucker to let him keep the ball after both the fifth and sixth innings despite a mounting pitch count that eventually reached 114.
“It was a (Porter County Conference) team. I just wanted to show what we could do,” Winters said.
The win over the Cherokees was Tucker’s first in three seasons coaching the Mustangs (2-5, 1-1). It was also a statement performance for a freshman the Region will likely get to know a little better over the next three years.
“When we had him in middle school ball, we knew he’d be special,” Tucker said. “(Monday) kind of showed him that he can be.”
That brought his season total to 16 strikeouts in 10 ⅔ innings with only six walks. He’s 1-1 with a 3.28 ERA.
“Last outing, I had some pain in my shoulder but today it came out pretty good,” Winters said Monday. “I was trying to throw the changeup in there every once in a while but it wasn’t working so I relied a lot on the curveball.”
Winters also leads the Mustangs with nine hits, 12 runs, three doubles and a .474 average. He’s driven in five runs and stolen five bases.
“He’s a very high-character kid from a great family,” Tucker said. “He likes going to Kouts because he can play multiple sports.”
Winters donned an exaggerated gold plastic necklace with a Kouts baseball logo after Monday’s game. It’s the Mustangs’ "victory chain" and similar to the University of Miami football team's turnover chain. Kouts' version is worn by the player of the game after every win.
Both Kouts and Winters expect to see it around his neck often as he continues to mature.