Jacob Cantleberry, who throws hard, has no problem acknowledging Roncalli High School senior Michael McAvene throws harder.
Cantleberry and McAavene are not only the likely starting pitchers in today’s Class 4A baseball Plainfield Semistate, they also are friends.
But the friendship will have to take a two-hour hiatus when the game begins.
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“We’re friends, but it’s a little different when you cross the lines (of a baseball diamond),” said Cantleberry, the Center Grove left-hander whose fastball typically ranges anywhere from 88 to 91 mph.
“I don’t really have any friends on the other team when I’m pitching,” he added.
Especially when a berth in next week’s Class 4A state championship game at Victory Field is at stake.
Cantleberry, who pitched a complete game and surrendered only three hits in the regional semifinal victory against Bloomington South on Monday, is 8-0 with an earned-run average of 0.82. He’s worked 59 2/3 innings with 107 strikeouts and has walked 34 batters.
McAvene, a 6-foot-5 right-hander who originally committed to play at Purdue University, reopened his college recruiting after Boilermakers coach Doug Schreiber announced his 18th season would be his last.
Capable of mixing curves and sliders in with a fastball clocked in the mid-90s, McAvene is projected to be selected anywhere from Rounds 6 through 12 when Major League Baseball conducts its draft this weekend.
McAvene’s 7-4 record is deceptive. In 57 innings he’s fanned 110 hitters and walked 28.
“Most of the time his fastball is probably at 92 to 94 (mph), and he’s topped out at 96,” Roncalli coach Aaron Kroll said. “A lot of what happens Saturday is going to depend on whether both pitchers are on top of their games.
“There’s a definite possibility of a low-scoring game.”
Center Grove defeated the visiting Rebels 4-2 in a regular-season game played April 1.
Roncalli hitters didn’t see a lot of Cantleberry that day but saw enough.
“He only pitched the first three innings, and he was really good that day,” Kroll said. “It should be exciting.”