RANBURNE — Spencer Gibbs has always had control when on the mound.
From having control of a game while toeing the pitching rubber as a senior at Ranburne to being able to precisely locate in the strike zone, Gibbs has it all down.
“Really, the only time I got in trouble was when I couldn’t put it where I wanted it and was leaving it over the plate too much,” he said.
Gibbs earned a 6-1 record for the Bulldogs and had a 1.98 ERA. He allowed 17 hits and only nine walks all year, while striking out 51 batters.
Gibbs led Ranburne to a 23-9 record and a spot in the Class 2A state baseball semifinals. As a result, he is The Anniston Star’s all-area baseball player of the year.
“He understands how to pitch,” Ranburne head coach Chad Young said. “He wasn’t a thrower and tops out at about 79 or 80 (mph), but he spotted the ball well and through mostly fastballs. He understood how to get people out, so I usually let him call his own pitches.
“I think the main thing he understood was that you can’t defend a walk. We tried to get ahead of hitters and stay ahead. He had very good control, kept the ball low and understood that he had a very good group of guys behind him.”
Along with control, the mental side of baseball was always one of Gibbs’ strong assets this season. He finished as the valedictorian for the Class of 2014 and is attending Auburn, where he may walk on to the baseball team.
“He was mentally tough,” Young said. “There were a couple of innings when he let up a few runs, but then the following inning he was right back to his usual self.”
That might’ve showed in the 2A state quarterfinals when Gibbs tossed a three-hitter in the opener of the best-of-three series, beating Sheffield 6-2.
He didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning.
Gibbs also shined at the plate in the playoffs.
In a nine-inning game against Lamar County, Gibbs doubled to lead off the ninth inning, paving the way for a 9-6 win.
Gibb worked during his junior and senior years with former Ranburne star and current New York Yankees pitcher Chase Whitley and former Bulldogs catcher and 2013 all-area player of the year Clayton Young to improve his fastball.
Going into the season, Gibbs also worked with Young’s pitch count, which he uses for all pitchers.
“We tried to stay on a 50-pitch count until April,” Young said. “Once April got here, I stretched them out to about 70. Then when playoffs got here I let them throw up to 80 or 85.”
Gibbs said the limited pitch count helped a lot, especially later in the year when he wasn’t burned out.
“Coming off preseason throwing and stretching, our arms aren’t adapted to throwing high pitch count yet, so they help keep the wear and tear down early in the season and help us go the longer innings later on in the season,” he said.
“You look at the major leagues and how they do the pitch counts and I’ve been around long enough to know lessons of how important it is to keep pitch counts down early on.”