Less than a week ago, Tyler Steffan finished one batter shy of his first career no-hitter. Instead of capping an incredible afternoon with a pair of zeros on the opposing team's scoreline, the Dickinson Roughriders' pitcher settled for a one-hitt...
Less than a week ago, Tyler Steffan finished one batter shy of his first career no-hitter.
Instead of capping an incredible afternoon with a pair of zeros on the opposing team's scoreline, the Dickinson Roughriders' pitcher settled for a one-hitter after Wahpeton's Kory Braun popped a fly ball into right field.
Steffan watched as teammate Zach Keller made a heroic diving attempt to catch the ball, but languished after Keller fell just short and watched the ball bounce harmlessly in the outfield grass.
"That's probably the best I'm going to do," Steffan said with a laugh. "Throwing a no-hitter is probably a once-in-a-lifetime chance."
To think that one year ago, Steffan was a new call-up to the Roughriders' roster is almost unfathomable. Ditto that when you consider this is his first season of any kind as a starting pitcher.
"Nobody really knew who I was as far as high school baseball because I haven't played varsity," said Steffan, who is 3-2 with two shutouts and a 2.33 earned-run average in the American Legion baseball season. "I made a name for myself and I'm able to give Dickinson baseball a good name."
Over the course of the 2007 high school season and half a summer of Legion baseball, Steffan has emerged as one of the Roughriders' stars.
And he's not just cutting down opposing teams with his arm. Steffan is helping other Dickinson pitchers succeed out of the lead-off spot. He also plays center field and is the Roughriders' lead-off batter on days he doesn't pitch.
"He's a consistent player," Dickinson coach Cory Hansen said. "He comes to play every day. He tracks down fly balls and has good speed. That's what we like."
While Steffan isn't known by other teams as a formidable threat each time he steps into the batter's box, the 6-foot-5 high school senior-to-be hopes that changes soon.
"I started off good and I'm up in my head a little bit," Steffan said. "I need to be focused and find a ground where I'm comfortable and get back to my old ways."
Steffan said working with the Roughriders' new coaching staff - Hansen and assistant coaches Andy Emerd and Brian Smith - has helped his game improve on nearly every level thanks to one-on-one work and mechanics.
He pitched the first game of the season for the Roughriders and doesn't like to talk about the season-opening loss the team suffered to Wahpeton.
"It's come a long way since then," Steffan said.
Dickinson right fielder and pitcher Kyle Schroeder believes Steffan is emerging as a player the team can look to as a leader.
"You don't think of Tyler Steffan as an all-star caliber player," Schroeder said. "But when he steps on the field it's completely different."
Steffan hasn't put up all-star numbers at the plate either. Although he leads the team with 49 runs scored, he's batting just .322 with an on-base percentage of .457.
However, Hansen believes those numbers are on target with his expectations of Steffan.
"He doesn't have anything he wasn't showing," Hansen said. "He just needed to be pushed in that direction."