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Pitcher fuels a few wins at Wilson

Prep Focus • Stuart Fewel fills a big role as he takes over for Joey Mahalic
by: JIM CLARK, April showers don’t stop Stuart Fewel, the Wilson junior who’s followed Joey Mahalic on the mound.

In some ways, comparisons are inescapable.

A tall, right-handed ace pitcher is putting up great numbers for Wilson High. One year after the Trojans graduated Joey Mahalic, one of the best baseball players in school history, junior Stuart Fewel has taken over as Wilson's No. 1 gun.

Fewel, a 6-4, 190-pounder, has been nothing short of dominant. With a fastball in the low-to-mid-80 mph range to go along with a curveball and changeup, Fewel was 5-0 through Wednesday with a 0.44 ERA. In 31 2/3 innings pitched, Fewel had 40 strikeouts while allowing only two earned runs and 12 walks.

'What makes him effective is he's able to get ahead of hitters,' Wilson pitching coach Shaun Fagan says.

In his first varsity start, Fewel (pronounced 'fuel') threw four scoreless innings against St. Helens in the season opener. Five days later, he hurled a six-inning no-hitter in a 12-0 win over Benson.

'It's hard to say which has been his best start, because he's had a lot of them,' Fagan says.

Fewel says that he loves watching all-star pitcher Johan Santana of the New York Mets. 'He has that demeanor that every time he goes out there, it's going to be a win,' he says.

Mahalic, also 6-4, was the state player of the year last season. He also helped lead Wilson to the Class 6A state championship in 2006. He signed with Oregon State but decided to turn pro and is pitching for the Cleveland Indians organization.

'I've always said that Joey was the best athlete I've ever coached,' Wilson coach Mike Clopton says.

With Mahalic leading the Trojans last season, Fewel pitched on the junior varsity team every chance he could. 'We wanted to get him as many starts as possible,' Clopton says. 'For anybody to get better, you've got to play.'

While the JV didn't have the glamour of pitching with the big boys, Fewel now realizes that the experience helped him. 'In the long run, I think it really made me a lot better,' he says.

In the offseason, Fewel focused on conditioning and getting into the best shape of his life in order to take over as the varsity ace.

'From Day One, you knew that he could pitch,' Fagan says. 'He's incredibly coachable. He also has good movement on his two-seam fastball.'

Even more impressive has been Fewel's attitude on the mound. He takes the hill with the demeanor of a man in charge. His poise - in the rare tough spots he's been in - has been a big reason for his success. 'Usually, I just take a big breath to calm myself down,' he says.

Usually, there are two people in the crowd who get the jitters when he takes the mound: his parents, Richard and Julie.

'We probably get more nervous than he does,' Richard Fewel laughs.

Baseball runs through Stuart Fewel's blood. Not only did his father play for Lincoln in the late 1970s, but his grandfather, Jerry Exley, starred at Grant and played for Oregon State. Exley was all-state in football and baseball and was inducted into the Portland Interscholastic League Hall of Fame in 2005.

Even though Stuart Fewel has been tough to hit so far in the PIL, Clopton says it is unfair to say that he will be able to reach Mahalic's prep level.

'No one will fill Joey Mahalic's shoes,' Clopton says. 'There will be only one Joey Mahalic.'

But Fewel understands that some people will make comparisons. He's done it himself.

'I always wanted to be exactly like Joey,' he says. 'It's been tough having to fill the big role on the team, but I just go out there and do my best.'

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