Intimidation is a vital weapon in a pitcher's arsenal.
Hurlers use their strength and height to shrink a batter down to size.
A reputation of an overpowering fastball and a vicious breaking ball always helps.
Pitchers glare and scowl from their elevated position on the mound — all in hopes of gaining an edge over the batter before they ever step in the box.
Caleb Dulay doesn't really use any of that.
His fastball isn't overpowering. (It tops out at 83 mph).
His breaking pitch doesn't fool batters. (His breaking pitch doesn't exist).
He doesn't have height. (He's about 5-foot-7, maybe 5-8 on a good day). Nor size. (He weighs about 150 pounds).
So how did Dulay, Righetti High's junior ace, go 10-0 with a 0.55 ERA and be named the Lee Central Coast Newspapers All-Area MVP?
Well, he relied on the old adage of throwing strikes and letting his defense take care of the rest.
Yep. It was that simple.
Making Dulay's season more remarkable, he was not expected to be one of Righetti's starting pitchers as the season began. He was happy to win the starting shortstop job.
"I came in working really hard to get a starting spot and I ended up getting that spot at shortstop," Dulay said. "A couple games in, I started getting more time on the mound. It took off from there. The coaches were calling good games, I was throwing strikes, our defense played good defense.
"I didn't expect to win 10 games like I did. I expected to pitch a lot, but I didn't expect to come in here and throw these complete games and stuff like that."
Dulay may be the only varsity pitcher in the area to not throw a curveball or slider. Dulay, hoping to keep his throwing arm healthy, instead throws a palmball, an old-fashioned pitch with sinking action that's typically thrown down in the zone, forcing batters into ground ball outs.
It puts less stress on the elbow as it's thrown just like a fastball or change-up.
Dulay needed only to strike out 45 batters in 76 1/3 innings this season. He issued just 14 bases on balls.
Dulay's palmball came about as he was looking for a second pitch to complement his fastball when he was in Little League.
"My dad didn't want me throwing a curveball until I was older," Dulay said. "When I was 10, one of my Little League coaches taught me how to throw a palmball. It worked out really good in the end for us because once I got older I didn't really need to throw a breaking ball because I developed that pitch so much. It just stuck."
Dulay says he may, at one point, develop a breaking ball to add to his repertoire.
"I think a slider, maybe, because I've always been interested in throwing a slider. Maybe a cut fastball," Dulay said. "But for sure not a curveball."
Take note, youth coaches. Dulay's insistence on not throwing a curve or slider has paid off. He lasted 9 2/3 innings against Frontier in the CIF Central Section Division 1 semifinals last month, throwing 110 pitches. He cruised to nearly 80 innings on the season.
Dulay didn't give up an earned run in the 2-1 loss to Frontier in the semifinals.
Righetti coach Kyle Tognazzini knew Dulay was going to be in the Warriors' mix of pitchers coming into the year, but didn't expect him to lead the starting rotation.
Tognazzini says Dulay has something in his approach that sets him apart from other high school pitchers.
"He knows who he is probably better than any player I've ever coached," said Tognazzini, who's been voted the All-Area Coach of the Year. "He's not going to go out there and try to be someone he's not. He's going to throw strikes, he's not going to overthrow pitches and he's going to command the zone. I knew that's what I had and he had confidence in it.
"More than anything he's got heart. He wants the ball in the biggest situations against the biggest guys, it doesn't matter who it is. That's what Caleb is. As the season came on, we were riding that momentum and it was pretty spectacular to watch."
Righetti won the Mountain League title outright over second-place San Luis Obispo. The Warriors finished 22-6 overall.
Dulay threw six complete games and had one shutout.
This is the third time in four seasons that a Righetti pitcher has been named the All-Area MVP. Righetti grad Matt Sauer, who was drafted in the second round by the New York Yankees in 2017, won the award in 2016 and 2017.
This is the 11th time a Righetti player has won the All-Area MVP award in the last 31 years. St. Joseph and Lompoc each have five selections in that span. Santa Ynez has four.
The All-Area MVP voting committee is comprised of the Lee Central Coast Newspapers' sports staff, which covers prep sports in Northern Santa Barbara and Southern San Luis Obispo counties.
Joe Bailey is the sports editor at Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Contact him with tips and story ideas at email@example.com or (805) 739-2239. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jbaileysmsports
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