When Cam Godinsky starts a game for Sycamore’s baseball team, he can focus exclusively on pitching.
Godinsky, a junior at Sycamore, has used his time between innings to check out pitch and spray charts. He takes extra time to see where opponents are in their lineup and what each batter has done because the designated hitter has become a fixture in the Spartans’ order.
One thing he doesn’t have to worry about is hitting. Sycamore has used the DH to hit for the pitcher in 15 of 16 games, which has provided Godinsky (3-1) ample time to study opposing batters.
“I like the DH when I am pitching,” said Godinsky, who also has a DH when playing travel baseball in the summer. “It allows me to focus on one thing at a time. When I am on the bench between innings, I think about who is coming up and what pitches I want to throw.”
Sycamore has consistently used the DH to hit for the pitcher this season, while other coaches take a different approach to get their nine best hitters in the lineup.
Although Sycamore has primarily used the DH to take the place of a pitcher this spring, there have been seasons when Spartans coach Jason Cavanaugh has let the pitcher hit. On Sycamore teams where a starting pitcher also played a position and was a top hitter, such as alumni Will Strack or Cam’s older brother, Matt Godinsky, Cavanaugh had to have their bats in the lineup.
“It depends on the personnel and the lineup,” Cavanaugh said. “You want to put out the nine players that you feel give the team the best chance to score runs on any given day.”
In trying to create his best offensive and defensive lineups, DeKalb coach Jake Howells has used the DH position to hit for different players, including position players at second base and in right field, as well as the pitchers.
It has forced the Barbs’ pitchers to be mentally stronger, Howells said.
“I’ve seen a pitcher struggle at the plate and then take that with them to the mound, Howells said. “Suddenly, they can’t throw a strike because they’ve taken their at-bat out there with them.”
Not using the designated hitter for the pitcher’s slot also can force managers into some tough decisions, though. For example, a light-hitting reliever might have to go to the plate and hit in order to stay in the game, giving the other team an out.
Both Sycamore and DeKalb have a baseball program with three levels and larger enrollment numbers than Indian Creek.
The Timberwolves have 16 players on their roster. Freshman through senior players compete at the varsity level under the tutelage of coach Joe Piekarz. The DH is a luxury Indian Creek often can’t afford because it lacks the roster depth.
“We don’t always use the DH for the pitcher,” Piekarz said. “If there is a really good fielder that we want out there but we have a better lineup with a DH, we can use it that way. Most of our pitchers are some of the better athletes and hitters.
“With a 16-man roster, we don’t have some of the same personnel luxuries as bigger schools.”