It doesn't take a clairvoyant to guess which Major League pitcher 145-pound Crystal Lake South senior pitcher Tyler Hall modeled himself after growing up.
"Greg Maddux," the mentally mature-for-his-age 6-footer said without blinking. "He wasn't overpowering, but he had a way of throwing strikes and getting around certain hitters. I think I get everything out of my body for being 145 pounds."
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Opposing hitters are inclined to agree. Hall hardly seems intimidating. Until the right-hander drops a backdoor curveball over the outside corner to a left-handed hitter in a 3-2 count, that is.
Or when Hall throws 3 straight balls only to come back with another off-speed pitch that fools an impatient hitter not expecting him to work backward.
Or when he starts off an overly aggressive batter with a changeup that makes him look bad, then blows a couple of 83 mph fastballs past him because the hitter is thinking off-speed.
Or when he makes a slight grip adjustment on his curveball, changing it from a diving 12-to-6 curve to a 2-to-8 slurve hybrid.
No, Hall was never the biggest player on the high school diamond, but his pitching acumen towered above most.
"We as coaches would talk about the comparison all the time, saying he was Maddux-esque," CL South coach Brian Bogda said. "There were times when maybe Tyler didn't have his best stuff, so he'd try to figure out a way to get a 5-pitch inning so he could last a little longer. Who thinks about doing that? What high school pitcher? He pitched smart."
Hall used his curveball, changeup and well-located fastball to forge a 9-2 record this season. He recorded 61 strikeouts against only 13 walks and posted a 2.17 earned-run average in 58 innings to lead the Gators to their second straight share of the Valley Division title in the Fox Valley Conference.
Hall was more than just a once-every-five-days hurler. He also played shortstop when not pitching and batted .417 (39-for-93), the fifth-highest average in the area this season. He hit 5 doubles, drove in 15 and scored 20 runs.
For his successful all-around campaign with his arm and his bat, Hall has been named an honorary co-captain of the 2013 Daily Herald All-Area Baseball Team in the Fox Valley.
He shares the award with Huntley junior Mark Skonieczny, who batted .432 with 11 doubles, 7 home runs, 36 RBI and scored 43 runs for the FVC Valley co-champion Red Raiders.
Hall follows in the footsteps of 2012 honorary captain Jordan Van Dyck of CL South, who accumulated similar statistics last season. Van Dyck went 10-2 with 78 strikeouts, 18 walks and a 1.34 ERA in 68 innings pitched. At the plate he hit .436 with 4 doubles and 19 RBI.
"Van Dyck was one of my role models," Hall said. "I looked up to him and tried to be like him, playing a position and pitching at the same time. I thought he represented South really well and I wanted to do the same."
"Tyler was really excited for Jordan Van Dyck getting this award last year, and I think it was a goal of his to not only be a part of the all-area team but to achieve the same award that Jordan got," Bogda said. "To see him put it all together on and off the mound and accomplish that goal is pretty neat. He's been a great role model for the younger kids in our program and it's been a delight to coach him."
Hall graduates as the second winningest varsity pitcher in CL South history. His 18 wins were 3 shy of the record set by a former three-year varsity pitcher. He finished third on the program's career ERA list (2.03), right behind Van Dyck (2.02).
His success wasn't limited to varsity competition. Hall went 36-4 overall in four years of high school baseball.
With the freshman team in 2010, he didn't get a chance to pitch until midway through the season. His first outing? A 5-inning no-hitter against Johnsburg. He would finish that season 7-0.
In 2011, Hall went 11-1 for the sophomore team, which merited a late-season call up for the postseason, though he did not pitch.
His junior year debut began inauspiciously when Hoffman Estates batters clubbed back-to-back home runs off him before he settled down and earned a complete-game victory. He finished 9-1 despite allowing 9 home runs. This year he allowed just 1 home run.
Hall suffered only 2 losses as a senior. The first was a 2-0 defeat at Cary-Grove in which he and Brandon McCumber threw dueling 6-hitters.
The second loss turned out to be the final game of his high school career. Arguably, it was his least effective high school outing. Hall allowed 7 runs (5 earned) on 9 hits and was chased after 3 innings. There was a silver lining, however, as he remained in the lineup and went 4-for-4 at the plate in a losing cause.
"I hit well, but couldn't do anything off the mound," he said. "I was throwing strikes, but some of the balls they hit were slow rollers. I jammed them a couple of times, but the ball would just go over somebody's head for a run. I had a couple of walks. Not my best outing, but that's just the way it is. You can't win them all. You have to stay humble and grounded because you're not going to be the best all the time. You can't be afraid of failure, especially as a pitcher."
Hall will take his fearless attitude next season to Greenville, Tenn., where he will play for Division II Tusculum College. Tusculum was looking for a change-of-pace pitcher to go with some hard throwers already on staff, and Hall's performance during a November on-campus visit did the trick.
"I never would have thought I'd have a chance to play in college for a program like that," Hall said. "But I'm going to continue to work hard and make the most of this opportunity. I'm a fighter."
Some might even say he's a Mad Dog.
Follow Jerry on Twitter: @jerfitzpatrick