Baseball: St. Thomas seniors flying to events
A few months ago, Austin Fairchild and Hunter Kopycinski celebrated St. Thomas' second straight TAPPS Class 5A baseball title.
This summer, Fairchild and Kopycinski, who will be seniors, are representing the Eagles, Houston and all of Texas in several high-profile events.
Fairchild, a pitcher, and Kopycinski, a catcher, were selected to the Area Code Baseball Games, one the country's premier baseball showcases, on Friday, Aug. 5, through Wednesday, Aug. 10, at Blair Field in Long Beach, Calif. They made the Texas Rangers' roster, which features players from Texas and Louisiana.
"To have two players from the same team is a significant achievement," said St. Thomas head coach Craig Biggio. "Winning championships is fun, but it's more important for your kids to get the opportunity to continue their education or advance to the next level, whether it's college or the pros."
Of the two, Fairchild is the bigger surprise. Aside from a stellar performance in an upset win over The Woodlands College Park, Fairchild struggled on the mound for St. Thomas during most of his junior season before catching fire in the playoffs.
Fairchild, a left-hander, struck out 10 batters in four innings of relief in the Eagles' 4-3 victory over Argyle Liberty Christian in a semifinal game at the TAPPS Class 5A State Tournament.
"I didn't do much the first two months of the season," Fairchild said. "I could have been the No. 1 (pitcher), but I didn't get the job done."
Remarkably, Fairchild, a 17-year-old Deer Park resident, sorted out his mechanics just in time for the postseason. In fact, he didn't allow a single earned run during his final nine innings.
"For some reason, my velocity improved," Fairchild said. "I added 3-4 mph to my fastball in April and May."
At 6 feet tall and only 175 pounds, Fairchild has a wiry frame. However, his fastball has been clocked at 90-92 mph, and Biggio thinks it's only the beginning.
"Austin is still growing into his body," Biggio said. "As he gets bigger and stronger, he should be throwing in the mid-90s."
Kopycinski is more of a known commodity than Fairchild. One of the country's top players at his position, Kopycinski, 17, is appearing in the Area Code Baseball Games for the second straight year.
During the regular season, Kopycinski hit .447 with 13 doubles, two triples, five homers and 48 RBI. He earned first-team, all-state honors for the Eagles.
"Hunter has a big-time arm," Biggio said. "He's been clocked at 1.7 to 1.8 (seconds) throwing to second base. Anything around 2.0 is considered Major League potential."
Kopycinski, a north Houston resident, is thrilled to be invited back to the Area Code Baseball Games. Although he has already made a verbal commitment to Rice, he relishes the chance to perform in front of professional scouts.
"It's great exposure," Kopycinski said. "Only the best players in the country are here. If you perform well, you can improve your stock (in the pro draft)."
Fairchild, who recently committed to TCU, also will play in the Perfect Game All-American Classic, presented by Rawlings, at 5 p.m. CDT Sunday, Aug. 14, at PETCO Park in San Diego. The game will be broadcast live by CBS Sports.
"I've never played on TV before, so it's a new experience," said Fairchild, who is on the West roster. "Everything seems to be happening so fast. It's an exciting time for me."
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