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Moniteau pitcher chasing strikeout crown, finds future home at The Rock

Moniteau's Branson Carson makes a pitch to a Coudersport batter during a game at Michelle Krill Field at Historic Pullman Park in May. Carson recently committed to pitch at Slippery Rock University.
Fanning Out

CHERRY TWP — First, Branson Carson hopes to make history.

Then he plans to join it.

Moniteau's hard-throwing right-hander verbally committed to Slippery Rock University Wednesday night.

“Our (single-season) strikeout record at Moniteau is 106,” Carson said. “I didn't throw all that many innings this year.

“If I stay healthy and pitch well, I think I can get that record next year.”

The 6-foot-1, 165-pound Carson is entering his senior year at Moniteau. He fanned 78 hitters in roughly 36 innings last year while compiling a 2.30 earned run average.

He considered California (Pa.), University of Maryland-Baltimore County, Shippensburg and Seton Hill before opting for The Rock.

“It's real close to home and it's been a successful program for a long time,” Carson said of SRU. “That combination just did it for me. I toured the campus and it was a nice fit for me.”

SRU was 23-14 last season. Coach Jeff Messer has been at the helm for 236 years and his 1,039 career wins rank fifth among active coaches nationally. Messer is the PSAC's all-time leader in wins.

Carson carries a 3.9 grade point average at Moniteau and plans to major in either chemistry or physical therapy in college.

“I'd love to become their (SRU's) ace pitcher, have a low ERA, set myself up to be drafted,” Carson said. “That's my long-term goal.”

Should SRU's roster remain intact, Carson will be the sixth Butler County high school graduate on The Rock roster in 2023, joining Seneca Valley graduates Anthony Cinicola and Jake Coon, Slippery Rock High School grads Ian Balquist and Ricky Mineo, and Butler graduate Colby Anderson.

Carson pitches for the Hard Core Elite Black summer travel team, coached by Jay Fennell.

Fennell said Carson's fastball is between 86 and 88 miles per hour now and touches 90.

“If he can get to between 88 and 90 on a regular basis as a high school senior, then average 90 to 92 his first year in college, he'll be right on track,” Fennell said.

Carson hopes to accelerate that pace.

“I'm hoping to hit 93 next spring,” he declared. “I need to lower my walk total, pitch with better control, too.”

Fennell said when Carson is throwing all of his pitches for strikes, “he's unhittable.

“His pitches move so much,” the coach added. “When he's on, his stuff is ridiculous.”

Matt DeSalvo, a New Castle product who pitched in the major leagues with the New York Yankees, has been working with Carson since the latter was 13.

“Matt does a great job developing young pitchers,” Fennell said.

Carson won't argue that point.

“He's worked with me on my pitching mechanics for years now,” Carson said of DeSalvo. “He's got me to the point where I can recognize a flaw in my delivery and correct it myself.

“If not for Matt, I'd just be another kid who throws hard, but throws the ball all over the place.”

All he needs to do now is get bigger and stronger.

“I'm still pretty skinny,” Carson said. “I have a lot of room to build my frame. As I get stronger, I know I'll be able to throw harder.

“I'm still developing physically as a pitcher.”

Fennell figures Carson will continue to improve and refine his game.

“That kid works his tail off,” the coach said. “He's really into this.”