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File / The Outlook Since his freshman year, Benjamin Russell's Ryan Slaten has become a crucial starter in the Wildcat pitching rotation. He was named to the North-South all-star baseball team Wednesday.

Since his freshman year, Ryan Slaten has been lighting it up for Benjamin Russell’s baseball team. The now-rising senior has been a regular starter in the pitching rotation and has proven he’s willing to step up in big occasions regardless of his age.

That has gotten him noticed across the state as he was named to the AHSAA North-South all-star roster. Although the games will not be played this year, Slaten still earned the important recognition.

“I hate he’s not going to get to actually play in the game but being named to the team is an honor itself,” Benjamin Russell coach Richy Brooks said.

Before the season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, Slaten had done the most work for the Wildcats, throwing 25 1/3 innings. He recorded a 2-0 record with four saves in eight games played, including three starts. Over that time, he had given up only 13 hits and four earned runs for a team-low ERA of 1.105.

Slaten has grown up around the game of baseball as he’s the son of BRHS assistant coach Chad Slaten, and that’s helped his game immensely.

“He’s a very cerebral pitcher and he’s been in dugouts since he was a little kid,” Brooks said. “He’s gotten a unique opportunity to study the game. And he’s used that, especially the mental part of it; he understands what’s expected of him when he goes out there.”

From the very start of his varsity career, Slaten’s proven he’s ready for big moments. In his debut as a freshman, Slaten threw a complete-game victory against Marbury, 3-2. He allowed only five hits and one earned run in the win and has only grown since that time.

“He’s a guy that has, thus far in his career, every time we’ve called on him in a pressure situation, he’s responded and that’s commendable,” Brooks said. “That’s something you never know until you get a guy out in the competition. The sky is the limit as far as being a pitcher; it just depends on how hard he wants to work this summer and he and I have talked about that.”

Although Slaten won’t actually get a chance to compete in the North-South game, which would’ve certainly helped his recruiting immensely, Brooks is hopeful there will be other camps and showcases this summer Slaten can attend.

Slaten has lofty goals of competing at the next level and although he’ll have to do some position work for BRHS — either at first or third base, most likely — he’ll end up on the mound at the next level. His first and foremost priority now will have to be gaining muscle in the weight room.

“Getting stronger is a big thing he needs to do,” Brooks said. “He’s a strike thrower; that’s probably the biggest thing that he does well. He commands the strike zone and any time you do that, you’re going to have a chance. Velocity and things like that will come as he gets stronger and he understands that.”

Slaten has several pitches in his arsenal but Brooks said Slaten’s biggest strength is his ability to mix things up.

“Some days (his best pitch) may be his breaking ball and some days it may be his fastball that has really good movement,” Brooks said. “To me, there’s something more important than what his best pitch is. First, he usually gets ahead in the count, but when he does even up or gets behind in the count, he’s been able to throw off-speed pitches for strikes.

“Anybody is a better batter when you know what’s coming, so his ability to not let them know what’s coming keeps them off balance.”

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.