Judge’s Kelley once again among elite pitchers

Chuck Kelley is continuing to surprise in his second year as pitcher.

Chuck Kelley is throwing harder this year, and it’s likely why he has a 0.33 ERA in PCL play. SUPPLIED PHOTO

A year ago, Chuck Kelley surprised opposing batters with his pitches.

Now, a year later, he’s continuing to surprise them with his improvement.

Kelley is a senior pitcher on the Father Judge High School baseball team, and last year he filled a major void in the Crusaders’ staff that was left when Dan Hammer graduated and moved on to the University of Pittsburgh.

Kelley’s emergence helped keep the Crusaders competitive, and Judge qualified for the playoffs.

This year, he’s even better.

“It was good to have him around because I learned a lot from him, but I’m a competitor so I wanted to be as good or better than him,” Kelley said. “I know he’s a great pitcher, so I wanted to be as good as him. I knew if I worked hard, I could at least get better. I worked really hard so I could improve.”

Hard work pays off.

Kelley had good stuff during his junior year, but this year his velocity is up and that’s causing havoc for opposing batters.

It’s probably why he is 2–1 on the season, and his only loss was a one-hitter to Monsignor Bonner-Prendergast last week when he struck out eight in six innings.

His other two outings, both victories, included a game where he surrendered one run and another where he hurled a shutout.

“I think I’m throwing better because I’m throwing harder,” said Kelley, who maintains a stingy 0.33 earned run average on the year.

“I’ve hit 91 (miles per hour) this year. Last year, I was high 80s. That’s a big difference. When you’re throwing harder, it’s a huge difference.

“I’m not really blowing people away, though, because in the Catholic League, you’re always going up against good hitters. I try and be smart. Just throw good pitchers, keep people off balance. You can’t just go up and blow people away in the Catholic League. You have to pitch smart and not get behind guys.”

Kelley knows all about how to make a hitter uncomfortable. And he’s using that information to become more comfortable at the plate.

Last year, Kelley was a competent hitter, but this year, the part-time first baseman is among the top hitters in the Catholic League. He’s shown power, but the biggest thing has been his consistency at the plate.

“I’m a much better hitter this year,” said Kelley, who is hitting .344 with two doubles and six RBIs. “Hitting was something I wanted to get better at. Last year, I was OK, but I feel a lot better this year. Since the Catholic League started, I’ve been doing much better, and that’s good because it’s against good pitching.”

He’s also happy to be contributing in the field.

“It feels good to play first base because you can still play while giving my arm a rest,” the Rhawnhurst native said. “I like being out there when I’m not pitching. But I’m a pitcher first.”

Next year, he’ll continue to work toward becoming a great pitcher.

He plans on going to Harford Community College in Bel Air, Maryland.

By attending a junior college, it leaves his options open. He could transfer to a Division I school or he could go the professional route. Players who go to four-year colleges must stay in school three years before they’re eligible for the MLB Draft, but juco players can go right away.

The goal is to someday play for pay.

“Harford is one of the best junior college schools in the country,” said Kelley, who is leaning toward majoring in business. “I think they’re ranked 18th in the nation. If I go there, I can see how things go. I can go for a year and transfer, or I can see what else is out there.”

At Judge, he knows exactly what else he can achieve.

The Crusaders are hanging around the top of the Catholic League with a 4–2 record.

The league is top heavy with seven teams sitting on four wins. The top team in the division is La Salle at 6–0.

With so much parity in the league, Kelley believes there’s no reason the Crusaders can’t raise a banner right before he finishes his Judge career.

For him, it’s more than just winning for his teammates.

“I’m not saying this because it’s my team, I really look at the guys on this team and think they can win a championship,” Kelley said. “It’s such a good team. We have pitching and hitting. And we usually play well in the field.

“I grew up right near the school and I know how important it is for everyone to win. We’re going to do everything we can to do it. The league is tough, but so are we. I really think we could win it all.”