Connor Prielipp hasn’t shaken off his catcher in three years.
The Tomah High School junior standout pitcher has a close relationship with his battery mate, Dalton Prielipp, who also happens to be Connor’s next-door neighbor and first cousin.
The two have been working together since their youth baseball days, and it’s helped the second-place Timberwolves (9-3, 6-2) challenge for an MVC title this season.
Dalton and Connor spend a lot of time together, and when they are hanging out, talk mostly revolves around baseball.
“We always have a game on,” Dalton Prielipp said. “We have such a good relationship. We get along with each other really well. It makes such a big difference (on the field).”
“It’s a very cool thing,” Connor Prielipp said about his relationship with Dalton. “I know what he’s going to throw down (signal for a pitch). It’s going to be different in the future when I don’t have him behind the plate.”
Connor Prielipp doesn’t say a lot, but his performance on the mound certainly does.
Not many hitters have found success against Connor Prielipp, and many have struggled to simply make contact.
Connor Prielipp was 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 63 strikeouts while surrendering six hits entering Tuesday’s doubleheader against first-place Holmen.
“By the time I’m on the mound, I just think about trying to get the hitter out,” Connor Prielipp said. “I don’t think about being one of the best. I just go out there.”
Connor Prielipp’s go-to pitch is his fastball as it is estimated to reach speeds as fast as 89 mph, which is above average for the high school level.
“It gets on you in a hurry,” Timberwolves coach and former Philadelphia Phillies minor-league pitcher Ryan Brookman said. “He doesn’t let up at all. He throws a lot of strikes and that helps. This year, he’s been much more efficient on his pitch count.”
Connor Prielipp also has a circle changeup and a curveball as part of his repertoire.
College coaches — especially at the NCAA Division I level — have noticed Connor Prielipp’s successes on the mound. Neither Connor Prielipp nor Brookman would disclose which schools were at the top of the list, but Connor hopes to have a decision made next month.
“I think about college almost every day,” Connor Prielipp said. “I have a lot of coaches contact me every week, and it’s a big process.”
The top factors Connor Prielipp says he’s considering is how comfortable he feels with a coaching staff and how he feels about the campus.
While college is in the back of his mind, when he steps on the diamond pitching is his complete focus. He’s been dialed in all season, and when he adds some tailspin to his fastball, depending on the day, he becomes almost unhittable. Most of the time, his fastball will come at the plate on a straight line. Some days, though, watch out.
“He can throw multiple pitches in the zone, and he has a real good tail on his fastball, which is coming in anywhere from 86 to 89 miles per hour,” Onalaska coach Larry Swiggum said. “He’s been a real challenge for our hitters while he’s been pitching there.”
Dalton Prielipp can tell which fastball Connor has when the two warm up in the middle of a pregame bullpen session.
“Some days, they’re as straight as can be,” Dalton said. “On other days, when there’s a lot of tilt, I have to sit a lot on the inside corner. I can sit closer to the outside of the plate (when the pitch is straight).
“I’m having the time of my life back there,” Dalton said Prielipp said. “Not a lot of kids get to do that. I get to catch someone special at such a young age.”
The Timberwolves have a number of upcoming games due to a lot of early-season postponements.
The Timberwolves face Onalaska on Thursday, then play Friday, Saturday and Monday. Brookman will use Connor Prielipp once a week, even with the schedule so backloaded.
“We have a lot of guys on our roster who I consider pitchers,” Brookman said. “Four of the guys who have thrown quite a bit for us are back. You don’t want to short change (Connor) and try to throw him every four days, then he’s less effective. We have to pick and choose which games are the most competitive games and go with those.”