In the back of his mind, Sage Diehm knows plenty of eyes are fixed on him.
From major-league scouts to opposing batters, the Skyview High senior left-handed pitcher deservedly draws the attention, as he will pitch for the University of North Carolina next season in addition to being a potential pick in June’s baseball draft.
But that all can wait.
Diehm, along with a deep Hawks batting lineup and a pitching rotation to match, have their eyes on Skyview’s first state championship.
“My focus is getting that title,” Diehm said. “That other stuff is exciting, but I’m more excited for what we can do this week.”
As the ace of the staff, Diehm has helped the Hawks (17-8) to their first 4A SIC regular season title, along with a bevy of other pitchers who may not have the fastball that touches the low 90s like Diehm, but are accurate and can make life easy on their defense. Fellow senior Mitchell Hensley threw 5 1-3 shutout innings Friday to claim the Hawks’ third straight District Three title.
“There’s a supreme confidence in him, and that’s carried over to the rest of the staff,” coach Ryan Bobo said. “We’re believing in everyone, not just him. He makes everyone rise to his talent level, and they have.”
In fact, there’s so much trust, Diehm may not even start Thursday’s 7 p.m. opener against Preston at Bishop Kelly High — he said “everyone has the No. 1 starter mentality.”
“It’s a positive for us, too, if he throws well one game, we want to do even better, see if we can one-up each other,” Hensley said.
Diehm has posted an ERA that has hovered around 1.00 while striking out nearly two batters per inning. It had a bit of a bump in the road as he missed about two weeks early in the season with mono, but said he’s felt strong the past month.
“Coming back from it was a little rough,” Diehm said. “I’d lost about 15 pounds, but luckily it didn’t last too long. I’ve known friends who had it for months. I was freaked out, but luckily wasn’t out that long.”
Behind Diehm and the pitchers is a lineup that has three batters hitting better than .400 in Diehm himself, Kody Graves and Rhys Vickers.
“I think our lineup is deeper than any team I’ve had — 1 through 9, we don’t have any easy outs,” Bobo said.
The Hawks enter the state tournament on a roll, having won 10 straight, allowing more than three runs just once. Their last three wins have been by a combined 39-2, with two of those victories over longtime SIC power Bishop Kelly.
“Three games left, and if we stay hot, we have a great chance,” Graves said. “That’s the one we haven’t won. We might have been happy just to get there before, but anything less than winning it all would be disappointing for me, for the seniors.”
As one of the most accomplished pitchers in school history, Diehm hopes to do something none other has done — win it all.
“It would mean everything to me,” he said.