'92 Player of the Year Cloude shows old form with new twist Eagles' hurler/shortstop adds pitch, eyes repeat

March 28, 1993|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

McDonogh pitcher Kenny Cloude worked just two innings of the Eagles' season-opening victory over New Jersey state champion Hun Academy nine days ago, but that was all he needed to show his stuff.

In striking out five, the senior right-hander flashed his 86-mph fastball -- up from 82 last year -- or crossed up batters with his slider or curve.

But what he was happiest with was his newest weapon: a balance-buckling off-speed pitch he developed while playing last fall with the Oriolelanders, coached by Orioles scout Jim Gilbert.

"I used it [off-speed pitch] to strike out one guy looking," said Cloude, who credits Oriolelanders assistant Tommy Gilbert for adding polish to his follow-through.

"I'm trying to save it for more meaningful situations, like getting batters to foul or pop up more before blowing them away with the fastball. But it's been incredible how much more I can keep batters off balance now."

It's not like Cloude had much trouble on the mound last year. He earned The Sun's Player of the Year honors with a 13-1 record and a 1.92 ERA. He struck out 97 batters in 83 2/3 innings.

The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder had a .915 fielding percentage at shortstop and didn't make any errors on the mound, leading the Eagles to a 20-7 record, the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference crown and a No. 3 area ranking -- six spots up from their preseason ranking.

In the Eagles' 7-3 title-game victory over then-four-time defending champ Calvert Hall, Cloude scattered eight hits and struck out five. At the plate, he had two RBI on three hits, raising his season average to .429 with 35 RBI, 22 runs scored, 12 doubles and a triple.

Cloude's potential, along with 12 returnees -- including sophomore hurlers Rich Levin, a left-hander, and righty Mike Ginsberg -- have earned the Eagles a No. 1 preseason ranking.

"To tell you the truth, I'd rather not be ranked No. 1. Even with all the hype, we're putting last year out of our minds and just taking the games one at a time," said Cloude, who has signed with the Richmond University Spiders. "With all the rain, I can't wait until the season really gets started. We're not going to back down from anybody."

Mount St. Joseph coach David Norton can attest to that.

"I've had the opportunity to coach Kenny and I'm impressed with his demeanor," said Norton.

"He likes to go up the ladder on you -- because that's where his strength is -- before he hits you with his fastball. Depending on whether you go for it or not, you either struck out or popped out."

Norton's Gaels (15-7 last year) split games with McDonogh a year ago, losing to the Eagles for the first time in Norton's

10-year tenure when Cloude eliminated the Gaels from the playoffs.

"McDonogh's team centers around Kenny Cloude -- how he goes, they go," said Norton.

"We beat them, 4-2, in the regular season when he went 0-for-3 and only struck out one of our guys, with a walk. But in the game we lost, he pitched all nine innings."

In a 10-6 victory over the Gaels, Cloude allowed 10 hits with seven strikeouts and three walks, and went 3-for-5 with three RBI, a double and three runs scored.

"Kenny will have the same role he had last year, being the No. 1 pitcher and the No. 3 batter," said McDonogh coach Al Poklemba. "He'll hit for power and average and be at shortstop when he's not pitching. He's a little quicker off the mound and he's got about three moves to first base. And he's very, very focused."

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