Crawfordsville baseball coach John Froedge knew Cam Saunders had the potential to go down as one of the best pitchers to ever wear an Athenian uniform. But entering his senior season this spring, Saunders was quickly running out of time to cement his place in history.
And then he did the unthinkable.
Saunders broke the Crawfordsville High School record for lowest single season ERA at 0.56, posted a 10-2 record and struck out 88 hitters in 6 2/3 innings pitched. The senior also had a .321 batting average with six doubles, and 17 runs driven in, helping lead the Athenians to an outright Sagamore Conference title. These accolades have earned him the 2019 Journal Review Baseball Player of the Year.
“He has improved steadily each year since middle school,” Froedge said about his ace. “And was flat out dominant this spring. His opponent batting average of .117 was incredible.”
Saunders spent last offseason playing with the No. 1 Indiana Bulls team and used time in the weight room and playing other sports to help prepare him for his last ride as a high school athlete.
“I wanted to be the best I possibly could be when the season came around,” he said. “I spent a lot of time in the weight room getting ready for my final year as an Athenian. Being a three-sport athlete has been one of the toughest things that I’ve done, but it also has its benefits. I believe this has helped shape me into who I am today.”
After a dominant start to the season — not allowing an earned run until toward the end of April, Saunders began to hit a few speed bumps, but quickly returned to form as he was destined for a first-team all Sagamore Conference selection and Indiana North-South All-Star nod.
“I found that I struggled most when I was trying to make my pitches perfect,” he said. “Coach Welliever (Rhett) told me that my stuff was good enough to get anyone out. I trusted that and went out and relaxed and threw.”
Froedge was not surprised by the success that followed Saunder’s hard work during his high school career.
“His success is not surprising though,” he said. “Cam works hard at everything he does. He is a dedicated three-sport athlete and an honor student. He is an outstanding man in every respect. Cam was no doubt a team player and a loyal Athenian. He was a joy to coach.”
When asked what he attributes his success to, Saunders points to God, family, and a pristine program he has been a part of for many years.
“I attribute my success to God, blessing me with the ability to play the game of baseball,” he said. “I also attribute it to my parents taking me to games, playing catch with me in the yard, pushing me to be the best I can be, and encouraging me along the way. Finally, the Athenian baseball program. It’s not just one team, it’s a whole program. Starting from CYB the coaches teach you Athenian baseball and that has helped tremendously. This team we had was a family and that is so important when you want to win games.”
With many people behind the scenes of the players and coach Froedge, lies several individuals who help make Crawfordsville baseball so successful, and Saunders was able to realize that over the years.
“There’s one person who doesn’t get a lot of spotlight for our high school team that deserves it and that is Justin Dugger,” Saunders said. “He works hard at everything he does. Having a person like him on our team just makes us that much better.”
Saunders baseball career will continue next spring at Indiana Wesleyan, and Froedge’s intuition about his ability and potential won’t go away either.
“With his strong work ethic and good attitude, I fully expect Cam to continue to grow as a pitcher during his time at IWU,” he said. “If he can improve his command and add a few miles per hour, who know what the future might hold for him.”
Journal Review All-Area Team
Josh Blackburn — Crawfordsville
Cam Saunders — Crawfordsville
Carson Scott — Crawfordsville
Austin Warren — Crawfordsville
Carson Eberly — Fountain Central
Griffon Fuller — North Montgomery
Kai Warren — North Montgomery
Reese Long — Southmont
Cole Roach — Southmont
Peyton Wininger — Southmont
Team compiled by Jared McMurry and Jeff Nelson