Nick Bebout is on track to become one of the winningest pitchers in Medina County history. Sixteen of the Wadsworth baseball team’s 44 victories over the past two seasons have been credited to his right arm.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior was the undisputed ace of the undisputed best team in the area.
The only thing more concrete than that was his drive to be the best. Less than 24 hours after the Grizzlies concluded their season with a come-from-behind Suburban League victory over Revere, Bebout corralled most of his teammates in the weight room to talk about next season.
Never being satisfied is his No. 1 personality trait. Representing Wadsworth with class isn’t far behind.
“I just want to get better and try to further my baseball career more than high school,” said Bebout, who is drawing interest from Toledo, Cincinnati, Wake Forest, Indiana State and Lake Erie. “It’s a personal thing, I guess. I want to see what I can do and try to make the best of it.
“I’m always making sure things are done and people aren’t messing around on and off the field. People are always watching. You have to act humbly
because when the team looks good and the team performs well, it helps you, too.”
Few Northeast Ohio pitchers performed better in the clutch than Bebout, making him the first Wadsworth player to be named Gazette MVP since Medina County Sports Hall of Famer Drew Saylor in 2001 and ’02.
“It would have been very easy for Nick to get an ego knowing he’s our No. 1 and he’s going to be on the hill for all the Tuesday (SL) games,” Grizzlies coach Greg Pickard said. “It really helped those young guys understand everyone’s equal and everyone works. I’ve seen kids come off real successful seasons and they’ll put the work in, but they’ll come in and have a chip on their shoulder. Nick’s not like that at all.”
All Bebout did was lead by example with a quiet, positive outlook.
He also won — and won and won and won.
Wadsworth finished the year 22-2 and won its first SL title since 2004 with a 13-1 record. It also was ranked seventh in the final Prep Baseball Report Division I state poll and 14th by the Ohio Baseball Coaches Association.
The banner season wasn’t all that predictable in March. Only Bebout, shortstop Riley Campbell, designated hitter Aden Campbell and first baseman Kyle Pennington saw significant action during a 22-win 2013 season.
The catch was the Grizzlies had a legitimate ace that gave them all the confidence in the world.
“He’s a very tough kid mentally,” Pickard said. “No moment was too big for him. When threw him out there, we knew we had a really good chance to win.”
Bebout finished the year 8-1 with a 1.32 ERA in 47⅔ innings. The 17-year-old struck out 69, walked only 10 and didn’t allow an earned run in his lone loss — a 2-1 decision to Copley. He also threw a first-pitch strike 72 percent of the time and allowed a meager four stolen bases.
Bebout’s most important starts came against traditional SL power Tallmadge on May 5 and Medina in the Hudson Sectional finals 11 days later. In 12 combined innings, Bebout allowed one run and struck out 11, with the latter win coming in front of a standing-room only crowd at Wadsworth.
In 106⅔ career innings, Bebout has a 16-3 record, 1.50 ERA and 6.32 strikeout-to-walk ratio. All three losses have been by one run, and he needs 10 wins to break the career school record set 31 years ago by Medina County Sports Hall of Famer and current Wadsworth pitching coach Bill Gearhart.
There’s not a ton of flash to Bebout’s game, making him the perfect fit for a team that prides itself on the little things. The 85-mph fastball with a slight tail pounds the lower half of the strike zone and the 70-mph sweeping curveball with late bite keeps batters off balance.
Toss in a defense that improved as the season went on and Wadsworth was hard to beat.
“It comes from working out and always strengthening my arm not necessarily with the weights, but with conditioning,” he said. “If you keep it low, it’s harder to hit. It’s what I’ve always been taught.
“(My defense) worked really hard over the offseason, and a pitcher can’t be good without defense behind him, too. They’ve got to be able to make plays.”
Bebout and the Grizzlies want to make more history as well. A myriad of rainouts caused Bebout to be all but unavailable for Wadsworth’s Hudson District semifinal loss against loaded Walsh Jesuit. The Grizzlies still wonder if the 9-3 loss would have happened had Bebout not been held back by the Ohio High School Athletic Association rule that states a pitcher can’t throw more than 10 innings in a 72-hour window.
As a result, Bebout is back working to give his team the best opportunity at another SL title and deeper tournament run next spring. His summer season is already under way with the under-17 Midwest Pelicans, one of the most respected teams in Ohio with five big-time D-I commits already.
Bebout plans to develop a circle changeup with Gearhart and has a goal to reach 92-93 mph by the end of his senior year. A pro career isn’t something Bebout has put serious thought into, but he’ll give it his all to maximize his potential.
Attitudes like that result in success not only on the diamond, but off it as well.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.