The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines the term “white whale” as follows: “something (such as a goal or object) that is obsessively pursued.” Finally, we saw our white whale.

Okay, so the term “obsessively” is going overboard because there wasn’t some lingering obsession about seeing Calallen senior left-handed pitcher Justin Lamkin in person. However, he was the last remaining player on our final 2022 Five Tool 55 – set to be released once the high school season ends – that we had yet to see in person. If we could get an in-person look and cross Lamkin off the list, it would mean that over the course of 11 months we saw each of the 55 players on the 2022 Five Tool 55 in person. I’m biased, but I think that’s quite an accomplishment and was a goal for Drew Bishop and I.

As I looked at the bracket and began projecting ahead, I knew there was a good chance Calallen would play in San Antonio during the playoffs. I was right. And I excitedly made the trip to see the Texas A&M signee pitch this Saturday against Boerne. Those thoughts and more in the newest edition of Dustin’s Deep Drives:

Calallen vs. Boerne

NORTH EAST ISD SPORTS PARK – I was gifted a chance to see Lamkin and another look at Boerne at one of my new favorite places to watch a game. Even the San Antonio traffic, which was still a thing even at 1:30 p.m Saturday when I left Austin, couldn’t dampen my mood. As expected, the Boerne and Calallen crowds were good. And as expected, a talented Boerne lineup challenged Lamkin.

Boerne made Lamkin pay for hitting a batter with a breaking ball in the first inning because with two outs junior outfielder Riley Pechacek jumped all over a heater on the inner half and ripped a RBI double. A good runner with an athletic, twitchy bounce to his step and present strength visibly packed onto his athletic, compact frame, Pechacek was one of 4A’s top playoff performers and his blend of bat speed, developing power and defensive ability should make him a D1 target this summer.

Although Lamkin got the best of him in the next two at-bats with swing-and-miss changeups, Pechacek would have the last laugh during the final moments of Saturday’s first game between these two schools. Inexplicably after struggling mightily against Lamkin’s curveball in earlier at-bats, Calallen challenged junior shortstop Cam Johnson with a fastball. He promptly smacked a hard liner that tipped off the glove of the left fielder, who didn’t get a good read off the bat, and put a runner on second base with no outs in the top of the eighth inning.

Johnson moved to third on an errant pickoff throw and with the game tied after Boerner managed to wiggle out of some trouble, Calallen brought the infield in. Pechacek’s hard grounder took a big hop over the shortstop’s glove and Boerne began to celebrate because it kept its season alive with a 4-3 win in eight innings.

Pechacek’s two hits accounted for two of the six Lamkin gave up in 7.0+ innings and the hard contact against the lefty was almost non-existent. Only Texas State signee Rashawn Galloway made hard contact as well when he also hammered a fastball on the inner half up the middle for a single. Galloway looked the part of a future impact performer with the bat at Texas State. And although Lamkin didn’t rack up the absurdly good strikeout number he typically does, he finished with nine and gave up just two earned runs with one walk. He threw 99 pitches despite throwing into the eighth inning.

Lamkin is able to routinely throw deep into games because the lefty utilizes a simple, easy delivery and stays within himself. To put it in other terms, he can flat out pitch and isn’t a thrower who hunts for velocity. Throughout the season, I heard reports Lamkin’s velocity was in the upper-80s and late in the season sat in the mid-80s, which is down a tick from where it was in the summer. That was again the case Saturday. His heater touched 88 MPH early but he worked 84-87 MPH the rest of the game. But an in-person look revealed why he’s so hard to hit.

The future Aggie has a low slot and deception in his arm path/delivery; because of those two things, when his four-seamer is right and has its usual zip, its shape can cause it to jump on hitters, seeming harder than what it is and like it’s rising. It didn’t have that zip and shape when I saw him, but it was clear that’s going to be a part of his pitching at the next level. Lamkin used a changeup that played very well off the fastball, often getting swings and misses against lefties and occasionally flashing as a future plus pitch at 75-77 MPH. The breaking ball had noticeable spin coming out of the hand where it did and lacking a noticeable “hump” with some two-plane break, it was a weapon against lefties and righties struggled with it, too.

When a pitcher is as talented as Lamkin is, everything about his delivery and arm path are going to get dissected by scouts. And how Lamkin’s left arm made its way to a promising “layback” position is unorthodox; after the start of a typical takeaway, his arm path doesn’t take a more common circular path – more of a plunge with a bit of a jab than circle – to shoulder rotation before release with both arms making an inverted ‘W’ look and elbow under the shoulder, which puts the hand placement a little late, just prior to foot plant. At least that’s what it looks like to me but the only way to truly know is to see the biomechanics data.

That said, the shorter action to get the ball near the head/ear before the real rotation begins doesn’t prevent some arm speed through the finish and creates the deception; in fact, Lamkin had a surprising amount of external shoulder rotation, which suggests his future is even more promising as he matures, adds strength and will undoubtedly throw harder. Additionally, I’d bet Lamkin has a good knee extension angular velocity because his lead leg plants and pushes with strength and quickness to support an upright finish with a big chest.

So, while Lamkin isn’t lighting up the radar gun right now and his arm path looks different, for lack of a better word, from the side and back, I think he has a lot of present ingredients to turn into an All-American-type pitcher at Texas A&M and an eventual high draft pick because he’s going to be a strike-thrower, already has a promising three-pitch mix with feel for spin, and had the type of 6-3 frame that is going to carry more muscle and is far from a developed product physically. If the fastball shape and velocity improve, Lamkin could have three above-average pitches or better with above-average command and plus control. Plus, I think there’s a lot of developmental potential for a stronger, more mature pitcher who will be able to better understand how to use his body to create the type of improved, quicker movements to aid his stuff. Heck, I think in the right setting with the right people he could suddenly take a huge step because of tweaks to the delivery, improved strength and an improved arm path. I left a fan who is very intrigued by Lamkin’s future upside because of the development opportunities but I also left understanding why he’s far more likely to go to Texas A&M than the MLB Draft.

Hey, when you’ve been chasing a white whale, you’re going to get a little long-winded with the report. And there’s more, too. Boerne was led on the mound by 2023 Baylor commit and two-way talent Tyler Garritano. The right-hander touched 89 MPH with his fastball early and held 86-87 MPH into the seventh inning. He pitched 6.0+ innings and gave up zero earned runs on three hits, two walks and punched out six. Once the big righty found his slider feel, he snapped off short, tight breaking balls that almost had the appearance of a cutter at times because of how short the break was. He threw one changeup at 71 MPH and he threw it where he wanted with a bit of a split-finger spin. Promising upside on the mound.

In the nightcap, Calallen punched its ticket to the Regional Finals with a dramatic win and, I presume, won the flip against Sinton because it’ll face Sinton in a one-game playoff this Thursday at Whataburger Field. I bet two things: there won’t be an empty seat in that stadium and Lamkin will be on the mound for Calallen against what I think is the best lineup in the state.

Rockwall vs. The Woodlands

CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY – The Rockwall versus The Woodlands matchup was so good I spent Thursday and Friday night at Concordia University’s Tornado Field, an absolute gem of a park and great facility. And although Friday’s contest ended up getting out of hand early and Rockwall handled its business to force a thrilling, winner-take-all game three it eventually won, the series delivered.

Despite Mac Rose’s excellent effort on the mound, with some help from his bat in the batter’s box, too, Thursday’s game ended with a 4-3 walk-off win in the seventh inning when The Woodlands scored with the bases loaded on a passed ball. Right-handed starter Ethan Coronel started for The Woodlands and matched Rose’s competitiveness on the mound, pitching out of multiple jams like his counterpart did to keep his team in the game. Coronel’s fastball touched 87 MPH and his changeup was a standout offering, flashing plus; Houston Baptist should be thrilled about his commitment and he’s a re-worked breaking ball and tighter control away from being a definite weekend rotation candidate at the next level.

Rose touched 91 MPH in the early innings with his fastball and held his stuff and velocity into the final inning without much issue. The Woodlands took advantage of some shaky defense and built a three-run first-inning lead, but Rose didn’t lose his composure. He kept his team in the game and allowed it to tie the contest 3-3 in the top of the seventh inning.

What excites me about Rose is there is some fine-tuning that could be done with things like hand/wrist placement and repetition of the arm slot that could allow him to unlock a more dominant level as a pitcher. He clearly has the arm strength and physical build to handle a starter’s workload and is a legitimate two-way talent who swung the bat better than any Rockwall player in the two games I saw. Rockwall showed a lot of maturity and mental toughness to bounce back and eventually win the series. Cade Crossland was a big reason why.

Crossland, who is heading to Ouachita Baptist University, breezed through a good lineup without much issue. He utilized a simple, low-effort, repeatable delivery to fire strikes with three pitches – fastball, curveball, changeup – and has advanced feel for pitching and competing. Frankly, he looked like the type of left-handed starting pitcher who ends up somewhere like Sam Houston State or Texas State and throws a ton of quality innings.

Crossland’s fastball was kept down in the zone with some sink and his changeup showed a similar shape and was his best pitch. Although his breaking ball will need to tighten at the next level, he can throw it for a strike early in counts and can bury it late in counts. When Rockwall needed it most, he calmly delivered. It helped he was gifted a huge lead early thanks to the likes of sophomore Pearson Riebock, Texas 2023 commitment Brayden Randle, Rose, and Weatherford College signee Andrew Tellia.

Rockwall took advantage of junior Brayden Sharp’s lack of control on the mound. After seeing Sharp touch 95 MPH in person earlier this season for The Woodlands, he was just 88-90 MPH before he was replaced in the early innings. Offensively, I don’t think Sharp whiffed once and made contact repeatedly and used his speed to force Rockwall’s defense into a key error during Thursday’s game. He remains one of the top 2023 prospects in Texas but is also a reminder that pitching this deep into the season is tiring, especially for underclassmen.

I saw why people around Rockwall’s program are so high on Riebock, who hits leadoff from the left side. He made a couple of tough defensive plays and the game seems to come natural to him; he never really looked overwhelmed, and his physical projection and hitting feel suggest he’s one of the top 2024 prospects in the state. Once Randle settled into the series, his hitting talent began to show, which led to multiple hard-hit balls and walks to put his speed (4.02 down the line) on the bases. Against future Brown pitcher and senior lefty Ty Harris, who was up to 87 MPH with a promising curve, Randle made an adjustment to get on time to the heater in a two-strike count and smacked a hard RBI single to help put Friday’s game out of reach.

Tellia tracked fly balls easily in center field and although he does come up empty sometimes in the batter’s box, he also does cut down his swing some in two-strike counts, too, and possesses some noticeable bat speed. You can tell his competitiveness rubs off positively on his teammates. Uncommitted senior outfielder Tyler Rollins hammered the baseball three times in Thursday’s game and looks talented enough to keep playing somewhere after high school.

As for The Woodlands, junior first baseman and right-handed hitter Sammy York caught my eye. He hammered a double to the wall in left field and hit a homer during Saturday’s game. Already tall with a build that will add some more muscle and physicality, York should be one of The Woodland’s top hitters next season and is definitely a guy for college coaches to track this summer with his power potential and bat speed.

Random Thoughts From the Road…

In my older years, I’ve turned into a bit of a coffee snob. Why would any coffee shop close at 5 p.m. or earlier? I don’t know. And why do all the coffee options you can snag from the refrigerator at corner scores include an obscene amount of sugar and crap in them? I want coffee not a week’s worth of sugar and carbs. Hey, this Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by the Circle K do-it-yourself iced coffee option. Want plain iced coffee and your own choice of creamer? It’s there. Want caramel, mocha or vanilla flavored with enough sugar until your content? It’s there too.

Circle K: coming through in the clutch so I could cruise home from San Antonio to Austin without problem.

Dustin McComas
Senior Editor
Five Tool Baseball

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