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All-Metro pitcher of the year: Juenger adds more pitches to take his game to a new level

All-Metro pitcher of the year: Juenger adds more pitches to take his game to a new level

From the 2018 All-Metro baseball series
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Hayden Juenger's fastball leaves vapor trails.

The O'Fallon High senior knows his heater can light up the radar gun. He regularly receives double-takes from professional scouts.

But he also is aware that it takes more than just speed to reach the next level.

So Juenger set out to add other pitches to his arsenal this season.

“He understands that to get good hitters out, you've got to have the ability to throw secondary stuff to keep them on their front foot,” O'Fallon coach Jason Portz said.

Juenger picked the brains of some his pitching teammates to help him add to his repertoire.

“I was talking to (Jaysn) Miller in the offseason because I was trying to establish a slider and I was trying different grips and I asked everybody how they gripped their stuff,” Juenger said.

Those tips helped Juenger become the Post-Dispatch All-Metro pitcher of the year.

His hard work in the offseason was the key to a banner campaign.

“I think without question he put the time in in the weight room to give him the strength to go deeper into games,” Portz said. “The development of his secondary pitches, his slider and changeup, gave him the opportunity to get the strikeouts when he needed them.”

O'Fallon vs. Carl Sandburg

O'Fallon's Hayden Juenger (15) delivers to the plate during the Class 4A Champaign Super-Sectional game at the University of Illinois on Monday, June 4, 2018 in Champaign, Ill. Paul Halfacre | STLhighschoolsports.com

Juenger helped lead the Panthers to a school-record 35 wins. They won regional and sectional championships before losing to Carl Sandburg in the super-sectional round.

The flamethrower, whose fastball tops out at 93 miles per hour, posted a 9-1 record with a razor-sharp 1.55 ERA. He struck out 75 batters in 54 1/3 innings and led the area with a WHIP of 0.87.

A Missouri State University signee, he held opponents to a minuscule .158 batting average.

Juenger did not allow an earned run in eight of his 13 appearances.

“I learned about the hitters and how to attack them this year,” Juenger said. “I feel like my slider got a lot better, so I had that true wipeout pitch. I wouldn't say that every time I threw it, it was really good, but I would be able to get them out with the slider instead of always trying to throw my fastball.”

Juenger will carry plenty of fond memories with him to Springfield, Mo. The most lingering was his bounce-back performance in the regional final against Southwestern Conference rival Edwardsville.

He gave up his first two homers of the season over the first three innings in that contest and was pulled after the fourth inning. He moved to third base but returned to the hill in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and no one out. He retired the next three hitters without giving up a run to set the stage for Josh Gibson's walk-off RBI single after Jake Holan's game-tying home run in the bottom of the frame.

“I never felt like we were going to lose, even when we had our backs against the wall,” Juenger said.

Juenger played third base when he wasn't on the mound. He hit .430 with three homers and 33 RBI.

“We're a super team-oriented team and we let the 'me' stuff go,” Juenger said. “We would rather see the team succeed and not worry about your personal stats because they'll take care of themselves.”

ALL-METRO FIRST TEAM

ALL-METRO SECOND TEAM

ALL-METRO THIRD TEAM

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