Bryan Kraus has had to carry the climax of his last FCIAC outing for the Trumbull baseball team with him for close to two years. Kraus was one strike away from pitching the Eagles into the semifinals of the conference playoffs when he gave up a walkoff home run.
“That was tough,” Kraus recalled yesterday. “We played St. Joe’s in the opener this year, which was where that last game was at, so it was sort of like revenge. Well not really a revenge game but it sort of felt like that.”
Kraus then sort of got revenge, allowing just one run over 6 1/3 innings for a 5-1 win.
That has turned out to be Kraus’ weakest performance of the season. He followed that up with complete-game shutouts of Fairfield Warde and Fairfield Ludlowe, two of the best offenses in the league.
Kraus’ numbers so far this year: A Scrooge-like 0.35 ERA in 20 1/3 innings, with 39 strikeouts, nine hits and just four walks.
“Bryan Kraus has been the story for us so far and rightfully so,” Trumbull coach Phil Pacelli said. “He emerged for us in 2019 as our most trustworthy guy out of the bullpen. I think a lot of those innings are helping him now.”
Pacelli said he thinks the playoff loss to the Cadets has fueled Kraus, even though few others remember the game.
“I think that stung him pretty bad,” Pacelli said. “He just wanted to use that as motivation to come back this year, especially after missing last year. He came back strong after those experiences.”
This is the year of the dominant pitcher in the FCIAC, with seemingly every team having a strong No. 1. Kraus is cut from a different mold than Staples’ Carter Kelsey and Greenwich’s Myles Langhorne, who throw hard and overpower hitters.
“He’s not going to easily intimidate you,” Pacelli said. “He’s probably like 180 pounds soaking wet. But his mechanics are flawless, he’s an intense competitor and he takes pride in what he’s doing out there. He has the confidence to throw any pitch at any time. He just gets outs. He attacks the strike zone. He’s very special to watch.”
Kraus said after the frustration of missing a season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he did a lot of offseason work, making some lifestyle changes as well.
“First of all throwing, being smart about how much I throw, because you don’t want to overdo it and throw your arm out or anything like that,” Kraus said. “What really helped me was I got on this weighted ball program, which helped me kind of strengthen my arm and made my arm feel better after I threw, with less pain, less soreness. I made a lot of changes to my diet as well. Getting on an eating plan that you have set really helps you get the best out of what you’re doing working out wise.”
The Eagles proved again this afternoon that they can win as well without Kraus on the mound with a 6-3 win over Westhill, which put up huge offensive numbers last week.
The Eagles have been more opportunistic thus far, averaging just over three runs a game, making Kraus’ start even more important. Pacelli said like the weather, he feels his offense will get better as the season goes on.
“As the at-bats come we can see some guys starting to get their timing down,” Pacelli said. “We faced some pretty high superior pitching so far so that is tough early on. But I can see us definitely breaking out sooner rather than later.”
Kraus shares the confidence in the Eagles’ offense.
“When the offense starts clicking, which I know it will, when the season starts going kind of, it’s going to be very tough to beat us,” Kraus said. “Especially because our pitching staff is so deep this year. It’s going to be very hard.”
The way the rotation is set up, Kraus is due to pitch Friday against Staples, which was No. 1 in the state before having its 16-game winning streak ended Friday.
“Our main focus is our game tomorrow and after that our game Wednesday,” Kraus said Sunday. “I take it on a day to day basis. Even on a day after a start, I may not be throwing but I still have work to do and I focus on that first.”
Top Of The Order
1. Staples (7-1). The Wreckers had their 16-game winning streak ended Friday and bounced back the next day for coach Jack McFarland’s 250th victory. Still the team to beat.
2. Fairfield Warde (7-1). The Mustangs are getting hitting, pitching and defense. What else do you need?
3. Trumbull (5-1). Kraus has carried the Eagles out of the starting gate. He should be getting the ball Friday against Staples. Must-watch FCIAC baseball.
4. Greenwich (5-1). The Cardinals somewhat silently have won five of their first six games.
5. Wilton (5-2). The Warriors somewhat silently have won five of their first seven games.