|12-03-2001, 11:17 PM||#1|
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Biggest Unit Yet - And Ryan Is His Name
This is one to follow for sure - - - BB America lists him as the #68 HS Prospect in the country for 2002 - - - - at 7' 1", I believe he would be the tallest MLB player, if he makes it.
At 7-1, Doherty stands tall for No. 8 Toms River East
By Ron Jandoli
Ryan Doherty was nicknamed "The Unit" by his baseball teammates when he entered Toms River East High three years ago. After all, like Arizona Diamondbacks ace Randy Johnson a k a "The Big Unit" Doherty was 6-10.
But this year, a more appropriate nickname for Doherty would be The Bigger Unit.
Doherty, a junior right- hander, grew more than three inches since last season and now stands 7-1. He weighs 220 pounds.
"I got the nickname my freshman year and it just stuck," Doherty said. "I don't mind being called The Unit at all. I actually like it and even put it on my varsity jacket."
On the mound, his pitches are released from as high as 10 feet and with as much as an eight-foot drop into the strike zone.
Doherty's fastball has been clocked at nearly 90 mph and he is just learning to accurately spot his pitches.
Doherty is 5-0 with 39 strikeouts, only four walks and a 0.86 ERA in 32 innings this season. He has thrown three complete games and allowed just 19 hits, attracting major- league scouts to his starts.
There should be plenty of scouts on hand tonight at 7 o'clock when Doherty faces his biggest test of the season: Toms River East, No. 8 in The Star-Ledger Top 20, travels to face No. 1 Toms River South. His mound opponent will be All-Stater Jeff Frazier (9-0), a senior right-hander who is 28-3 for his career.
"Having the pressure in a big game and being the one to get the nod is a position I hope to be in every time," said Doherty, an honor student who sports a 4.25 grade- point average in advanced classes. "Just a chance to play the No. 1 team in the state, I know my adrenaline will be going. But I've been in big games in basketball, so I'm kind of used to it."
Doherty's success on the mound is surprising to Toms River East coach Bill Frank, considering that as a sophomore Doherty played mainly for the junior varsity and went 0-1 as a late-season addition to the varsity.
"I have to admit, Ryan just kind of came out of nowhere this season," Frank said. "He was just supposed to be one of our young pitchers in the fold. But he began to fill out as well as grow a lot over the last year and matured and worked hard to get where he's at now.
"His biggest asset is that he takes everything in stride and nothing seems to affect him."
Doherty admits he was somewhat uncoordinated until he began working more diligently on his flexibility and honing his basketball skills last summer. Still, he emerged as the ace of the staff in his first varsity start on April 5.
He pitched seven innings, struck out 12, walked only one and allowed three hits in a 5-0 victory over Brick Memorial.
It was senior catcher Colin Gaynor who came up with Doherty's nickname.
"I knew in the preseason that his arm was a lot livelier," Gaynor said. "But for him to come out that first game and do what he did was a big surprise."
Doherty's success continued in his sternest challenge to date, against Toms River North on April 26. He was more than up to the task when he pitched a one-hitter with a career-high 13 strikeouts and only one walk. He threw 59 of 97 pitches for strikes.
Dan Russell of Toms River North is batting .306 this season and had mixed results against Doherty. Russell went 1-for-3 with a home run in his first at-bat, a strikeout on three curveballs in his second and a groundout to first in his final look at Doherty.
Russell said a batter always has to look for a fastball and that makes Doherty's curve that much more effective.
"When he throws his curve, it just dies," Russell said. "He sneaks it in with his fastball and makes you look like garbage because you're looking for the fastball and he bounces a curve and you're swinging at it. I never thought he'd throw me three straight curves."
Doherty feels his progress over the past year is directly related to his progress on the basketball court. The center, who averaged 18.6 points and 11.4 rebounds per game last season, already has drawn interest from colleges for his accomplishments on the court, which earned him recognition as The Star-Ledger 2001 Ocean County Player of the Year.
He soon may draw just as much interest for his work on the mound.
"The last year has probably been as much mental as physical," Doherty said. "It's every player's dream to have what has happened to me. Choosing between baseball and basketball will be a tough decision, but it's all good."
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