Baseball success stories don't come more homegrown than Will Coursen-Carr.
His first memory of baseball was throwing tennis balls across the street with his father for “five hours a day.” He played Wildcat baseball “a really long time and just did it for fun,” playing his first competitive baseball with the Summit City Sluggers as a 15-year-old. He loved every sport to the point where he played four (tennis, football, basketball and baseball) his senior year at South Side High School. He loved baseball most.
Along the journey, he became the best pitcher in the area and – judging by his Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year award – the best player in the state.
Coursen-Carr finished the season with a 10-1 record and an 0.40 ERA and led South Side to a stunning, first-ever sectional championship. For his efforts, which also included hitting over .500, he is The News-Sentinel's 2012 Baseball Player of the Year.
“This was definitely my best season,” Coursen-Carr said. “I worked with Mark DeLaGarza (his Sluggers coach), who worked with Jarrod Parker. He had me work a lot with my mental approach. I did a lot of squatting and stuff, all over the winter. I climbed up from 85 to 88 (mph fastball) to the last few games of 87 to 91 (mph), which was really cool.”
Coursen-Carr became virtually unbeatable – his sole loss coming in an error-plagued game (“Three were mine,” he said) against Snider in the regular season.
Already committed to play college ball at Indiana University, Coursen-Carr was able to concentrate fully on high school ball this spring, and there was no mentally stronger pitcher in the area.
“When college scouts came last year, it got me amped up and excited, and that was good sometimes because it made me pitch better,” he said. “But sometimes I would worry too much and instead of pitching, I'd be throwing to impress the radar guns, and that's not what pitching is about.
“I had a better season this year because I was not doing that,” he said. “When you just try to throw hard, you usually don't throw as hard as you should.”
Coursen-Carr developed a devastating slider and changeup to complement his power, and the result was an ability to keep hitters off balance throughout all points of the lineup.
The best example of his prowess might have been the Archers' 4-1 win over Homestead in the sectional title game. Homestead sported one of the best-hitting teams in the state, not just the area. Coursen-Carr threw a complete game, striking out 11 while allowing only five hits and two walks. He also had two hits in the game, including a two-run double.
South Side, which finished 20-9, had suffered losing, albeit progressively better, seasons during Coursen-Carr's freshman, sophomore and junior seasons.
“(Winning the sectional) meant a lot to our community, our players, our parents, all of the alumni and everyone,” he said. “It was awesome, a really cool experience.”
South was the dark horse entering the tournament because Huntington North and Homestead were both ranked high in the state. Many assumed the winner of that game would win the sectional.
“Honestly, we thought we weren't going to do anything in the sectional,” Coursen-Carr said. “We had Huntington North and Homestead, and both of them were amazing teams.”
But the play behind Coursen-Carr on the mound against Homestead was tremendous, and he pitched with the mental and physical power of a champion.
“It was surreal,” Coursen-Carr said. “The whole team was clicking. Everybody was hitting. The fielding was awesome. …Coach (Sheldon) Van Pelt got us together and we played well.”
South Side's trump card, of course, was Coursen-Carr.