There's no doubt that Mathew Troupe of West Hills Chaminade High is having a breakthrough season on the mound, stamping himself as one of the top pitchers in Southern California.
For the fourth time this season, Troupe finished with strikeouts in double digits Monday, collecting 10 while allowing three hits in Chaminade's 4-1 victory over San Jose Valley Christian in a first-round game of the Hard 9 National Classic at Anaheim Esperanza.
Troupe, a 6-foot-1 senior right-hander who signed with Arizona, was primarily considered a catcher when the season began. But he has recorded three shutout victories and had a week last month in which he struck out 20 Encino Crespi batters over two games and nine innings.
"The thing about Mathew is he comes in and consistently throws strikes, and when he's off, he makes adjustments," Coach Frank Mutz said.
Chaminade (12-3) broke a 1-1 deadlock in the fourth inning with three runs. Cole Rutherford delivered the key hit, an RBI single. Dylan Delaney also had an RBI single. Earlier, Michael Dingilian hit a home run.
Troupe (4-2) started his prep career at Granada Hills and pitched at Dodger Stadium as a freshman in the City Section Invitational final. He transferred to Chaminade and focused on playing shortstop, then catcher. The Eagles needed a strong defensive player behind the plate last season to handle Brando Tessar (now at Oregon) and Dingilian. But during the summer, Troupe improved the velocity of his fastball (it's 88 to 91 mph) and began throwing his changeup and curveball consistently for strikes.
"Every game, I get more and more confidence," he said. "Once I kept developing my secondary pitches — that's how I've been able to have some success lately."
Chaminade, which plays a second-round game Tuesday at 10 a.m. at Placentia El Dorado, has the required pitching depth to do well in the 16-team National Classic. The Eagles have Dalton Brown and Dingilian ready to go as starting pitchers, and Mutz promoted his prized junior varsity pitcher, freshman Dylan Suppan (3-0), for support. There's also promising sophomore Chad Gubicza, son of former Kansas City Royals pitcher Mark Gubicza. Suppan's uncle, Jeff, also was a major league pitcher.
Another impressive pitcher Monday was 6-4 junior right-hander Tyler Ferguson of Clovis West. He struck out 13 in a 3-1 victory over City Section power Chatsworth. A running catch by left fielder John Koretoff with the bases loaded and two out preserved the victory.
The tournament concludes Thursday night with the championship game at Cal State Fullerton.