At 6-foot-5, Meridian senior Chad Richter has never complained about being a taller than average high school pitcher.
"It adds a little more leverage when you're tall," Richter said in a phone interview.
But getting those lengthy arms and even longer legs to work together to utilize that extra leverage is not always easy.
But this year, Richter is putting it all together for the Trojans.
"Chad has been a kid that has improved over his four years here," Meridian coach Steve Slesk said in a phone interview. "He's always had a good body and pretty good arm, but he's struggled with his control a little bit. That's the biggest difference this year compared to years past. He's buckled down in terms of his mechanics and where he puts the ball."
Meridian will need him to be spot on Saturday, May 18, when it faces defending Class 1A state runner up Naches Valley in the first round of the Moses Lake Regional of the 1A State Tournament. The Rangers beat the Trojans 4-0 in the semifinals of last year's state playoffs.
"We know they're very good," Slesk said. "They are legitimate. We're looking forward to it. We know Chad won't back down. He's going to go out there and give it everything he has."
The right-hander will enter with a 4-2 mark and a 2.91 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings of work and has allowed only 12 walks.
Those numbers are a dramatic improvement over last year, Slesk said, particularly because of Richter's improved control.
And the way Richter has gotten better?
Repetition, repetition and a little more repetition.
"He's been focusing on repeating good mechanics over and over again when he pitches," Slesk said. "He was a little all over the place in the past, but this year he's really focused on hitting his spots over and over again and getting everything mechanically sound."
Richter credited Rick Foster for spending a lot of time with him to refine his mechanics.
"He's been working with me to keep my weight back and keep everything a little more compact," Richter said.
As a result, Richter's fastball has gained another 4 or 5 mph so that he's now topping out around 86 mph.
Mix in a good change up and couple of good curveballs - a quicker, sharp breaking pitch and a looping curve, Richter said - and it can make him tough to face.
"When he's able to locate his curveball, he's as good as anyone in 1A," Slesk said.
But it's not just Richter's mechanics that have improved this year.
He's also improved his approach.
"This year, he's really matured a lot," Slesk said. "He's a lot more confident about himself, which is really important. He had a couple of slip ups early on, and but he's been able to move past them this year. He understands how to pitch."
Slesk said a big part of the reason is he now understands that he is Meridian's No. 1 guy on the mound.
"It's nice knowing that all your teammates are looking to you in that situation," Richter said. "I don't want to let them down."
He also understands how to hit, and has become a factor in the middle of Meridian's lineup offensively.
Again, becoming more compact in his swing has helped make a big difference this year, Richter said.
He enters Saturday hitting .270 (17 for 63) with two doubles, 11 runs scored and a team-high 18 RBI.
"He struggled the first half of the year, but he's really dialed it in and started to swing a good bat," Slesk said. "He's spent a lot of time working hard on his swing. He used to have a big old swing, but he's tapered it down. He's satisfied driving the ball to the right-center field gap. He's been a real good weapon for us the second half of the year."
Richter hopes to continue being a weapon next year at Centralia College.
He said he made the choice over Tacoma Community College and Corbin University.
"I liked that fact that I could come in and make an impact right away," Richter said. "I know some of the guys they're bringing in, and they're bringing in a lot of good bats. That's always nice for a pitcher to have."
Richter said he plans to major in Criminal Justice, but doesn't know where he wants to take that yet.
But before he heads south, Richter would like to play in a couple more games in Meridian black and gold and give the Trojans a chance to get back to the Final Four in Yakima for a fourth straight year.
"I think he gives us a chance to win anytime he takes the mound," Slesk said. "I think the kids feel that way too. They feel confident with him on the mound. ... I believe his best days are ahead of him. He's got a ton of potential."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
SATURDAY'S FIRST ROUND STATE BASEBALL GAMES
Mount Vernon Regional at Skagit Dream Field
First round: West Seattle vs. Ferndale, 1 p.m.
Bellingham Regional at Joe Martin Field
First round: Lynden vs. Lindbergh, 10 a.m.
CLASS 1A STATE TOURNAMENT
Castle Rock Regional
First round: Montesano vs. Mount Baker, 10 a.m.
Moses Lake Regional at Larson Playfield
First round: Meridian vs. Naches Valley, 1 p.m.
NOTE: Regional championship games would follow at 4 p.m. for any teams that win.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.