One for the record books: Wallner fans 22 batters in first SD amateur game
KIMBALL--Zak Wallner's first South Dakota amateur baseball game was one for the record books. The right-handed pitcher logged 22 strikeouts in Kimball/White Lake's 2-1 win over South Central in a Pony Hills League contest on Thursday. Wallner pit...
KIMBALL-Zak Wallner's first South Dakota amateur baseball game was one for the record books.
The right-handed pitcher logged 22 strikeouts in Kimball/White Lake's 2-1 win over South Central in a Pony Hills League contest on Thursday. Wallner pitched a pair of amateur games for the Kimball Express (Minnesota) in April, but Thursday was his first amateur appearance in South Dakota and it was one to remember.
"Right after the game, I texted my dad (Rick) and he said, 'Twenty-two strikeouts in nine innings, that's got to be some kind of a record.' I didn't even think about it until he said that," Wallner said.
Rick isn't far off. The 22 strikeouts are believed to be a Pony Hills League record and ranks among the most for a nine-inning state amateur contest. The state amateur record for most strikeouts in nine innings is 25 and it's shared by Canova's Thomas Gulledge, Clear Lake's Jim Anderson and Menno's Kent Sattler. Three players threw 24, six pitchers threw 23 and Wallner is now one of six to throw 22 strikeouts.
But he had no idea he was racking up the K's and was instead just doing his thing on the mound.
"I wasn't really paying attention to strikeouts at all in the entire game," Wallner said. "I knew I was kind of moving quick and just staying in the zone. I guess nobody had a count until the game was over."
Wallner said his previous career-high for strikeouts in a nine-inning game was 15. But despite the 22-strikeout performance, he cared more about the victory. He gave up four hits and issued just one walk in 116 pitches.
"It's just cool to go on a team and make a difference like that and especially when some of the guys were saying, 'If you wouldn't have thrown that game, we probably would have lost,' " Wallner said. "It was good to hear that from the guys and know that I had an impact on pulling out the 'W' for the team."
The Nationals needed every single one of Wallner's strikeouts. The contest was tied 1-1 going into the bottom of the eighth inning, but Brian Zeman's RBI single brought in the go-ahead run.
Wallner went back onto the hill in the top of the ninth and struck out the side to finish the job.
"I didn't want anybody else out there just because I went that long," Wallner said. "So I might as well finish it up. That's kind of when you dig deep and do it for the team."
Wallner has done the same thing for a number of teams. He hails from Amherst, Wisconsin, and threw a perfect game as a high school sophomore. After a year at St. Cloud Technical and Community College in 2013, he pitched for Salem International University (West Virginia) in 2014.
He landed at the University of Sioux Falls his junior and senior seasons in 2015 and 2016. Wallner later pitched a season for the High Desert Yardbirds of the Pecos League in 2017. It's a low-level independent non-Major League affiliated professional baseball league based primarily in the Southwest and California. Wallner pitched last season for the Express.
He now lives in Sioux Falls and in 2017 helped found Platinum Bat Company, which manufactures Major League quality wood bats. He landed with the Nationals after former USF teammate Wes Kroupa persuaded him to join the squad and pitched his way into the record books in his first outing for the team.
"I am excited for the upcoming season and hopefully we can get some more fans out there because it's going to be fun to watch," Wallner said.