FARMINGTON — The knuckleball isn't seen much in baseball anymore, but Piedra Vista's Wyatt Weaver dusted off the classic pitch and used it to shut down Farmington High.
Weaver held the Scorpions to just one run on three hits in six innings to help the Panthers capture the Piedra Vista Baseball Invitational Tournament title with a 4-1 victory on Saturday.
The knuckleball is a pitch many players will toss around in practice but few put in the time necessary to master it.
That's where Weaver was different, PV head coach Mike McGaha said.
"I've gotten to the point now where I like to win and we're obviously trying to win, but I also realize there's a lot of fun in this game if you let it happen. I think I've been guilty of not doing that in the past," McGaha said. "So I told Wyatt if you're serious about it, let's do it. Let's work on it and figure it out. Shorten the stride and not throw it too hard and back it up with a fastball and see if we can do it."
Weaver's command of the pitch was something that caught the eye of FHS head coach Sean Trotter.
"I though Wyatt did a tremendous job. The knuckleball is a funny thing. You can screw yourself into the ground swinging three times before it gets to the plate," Trotter said. "He threw it around the strike zone and it's not something you see every day."
The PV junior is still trying to work out the kinks with the pitch after walking five FHS hitters in the win, but Weaver likes his chances to find a spot in the Panthers' rotation.
"We have guys like Isaiah (Valdez) and Gunner (Archuleta) who can throw low to mid-80s," Weaver said. "I think it's good to get a little mix and throw them off a little bit. I've been putting in as much work as I can."
The Panthers haven't settled on a permanent rotation as of yet, and with 10 of the 14 PV players having experience on the mound, McGaha is giving guys like Weaver the chance to work their way into the staff.
"He's going to be a guy for us," McGaha said. "I think Wyatt is a very good match up against Valencia, who's a fastball hitting team. I think he spins those guys into the ground. You're rolling the dice, but right now I like where we're at and we're going to run him out there every time we need to."
Weaver has also started to find his rhythm at the plate.
After getting a late jump into the baseball season while finishing up wrestling, Weaver's bat came around in the semifinals, picking up 2 RBIs in an 8-6 come-from-behind victory against Los Alamos.
McGaha said players like Weaver and Archuleta in the lower half of the batting order will be critical to PV scoring runs going forward this season.
"He's a hot player and he's bridged the gap from the top four guys to the bottom of the order," McGaha said. "Now with Gunner and Wyatt in that 5-6 spot, it's really connected the bottom to the top and we're able to manufacture some runs."
McGaha is hoping Weaver's hot bat will continue to find holes in the infield throughout the spring.
"He's hitting the ball hard, provides gap power and he's a good runner that battles hard," McGaha said. "(Because of Weaver), guys are going to have to pitch to Kody Russell and Zach Ahlgrim. That's a good thing for us."