Bryce Herman lies in bed every night with a baseball in-hand.
Before falling asleep, the St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy ace starts by making a four-seam fastball grip, applying the proper pressure and visualizing the pitch. Next up is his two-seam fastball, then curveball and then splitter.
Herman imagines each type of pitch 20 times before he finally calls it a night.
“He does stuff like that all the time,” said Greg Herman, Bryce’s dad and SJCA’s head coach. “And he does it on his own.”
Bryce Herman, a junior hurler with a tireless work ethic, is in many ways the heartbeat of the Wolves’ baseball team. He’s SJCA’s No. 1 pitcher, a top hitter and one of two captains on a squad seeking the school’s first District 6 Class A title.
After the Wolves defeated Blacklick Valley 12-6 on Friday, thanks in part to Herman’s two hits, No. 33 will take the hill Tuesday to face Homer-Center in the district semifinals. And if Herman — who’s received collegiate interest from Navy, Dartmouth, Penn and Cornell — can throw like he has all season, the Wildcats should be wary.
In eight appearances this year, the right-hander who essentially pitches in his sleep owns a stingy 1.14 ERA, a slight improvement from already-impressive 1.25 and 1.78 marks in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Herman has allowed only 20 hits in 30 2/3 innings of work with 31 strikeouts to his name.
The dominating stats are there for Herman — but so is the poise.
“He’s the hardest guy I’ve ever seen work,” junior Dylan Broderick said. “That sets a standard. We all look at it and say, ‘Hey, maybe we should be doing that, too.’ It’s the captain thing to do.”
Added Bryce: “I’ve never forced myself into a leadership role because, normally, those people aren’t the best leaders.”
Those innate qualities have come to Herman over years of playing, staying awake at night and fine-tuning his ability.
The pitcher started up with baseball when he was 4 years old in a YMCA pre-T-ball league. Herman’s father, who’s coached him throughout his entire career, remembers flipping baseballs to the other 4-year-olds while Bryce would shag fly balls no problem.
For the most part.
“I remember getting hit in the face once,” Herman said, laughing.
That experience of playing so young, even if he did take one on the noggin, endeared Herman to baseball. He carried a bat around wherever he went and eventually quit his other sports to focus on the game in eighth grade.
A couple years later, as a sophomore, Herman found himself in arguably his biggest start ever, fully prepared — Herman and the No. 9-seeded Wolves upset top-seeded Blairsville 1-0 in the district tournament. The righty threw six scoreless innings in a signature performance.
Still, SJCA didn’t finish the way Herman hoped. The next game, the Wolves lost 6-0 to Portage. Herman wasn’t on the hill, but was still irked by the loss.
“Something just got to me,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘What can I do better off the field? When no one’s around, what can I do to get better?’”
The night of SJCA’s loss to Portage, Herman lied in bed and visualized pitches for the first time. Ever since that defeat, he’s been determined.
And on Tuesday, when the culmination of his year of training is on display against Homer-Center, he’ll be confident taking the hill.
So, too, will his coaches and teammates.
“We’re expecting him to shut them down,” Greg Herman said. “I expect (all his success). I really do. And his teammates do, too.”