Block out the dandelions and weed-filled grass, and the nearly flawless piece of St. Agnes baseball quickly comes into focus.
A 6-4, 205-pound figure trudges across the haggard practice field at West Minnehaha Recreation Center in St. Paul, headed to the makeshift bullpen on a natural hill in the outfield.
This is where Jack Fossand has been molded into one of the top pitchers in the state. He sports a state record that he could extend next month and a spot on Dartmouth College’s pitching staff next year.
The senior righthander has dominated the Tri-Metro Conference and Class 1A in the past four years. He has won 20 career games with an ERA of 2.43. He followed up a junior season of seven wins and a 0.82 ERA with a 2-4 record and 2.18 ERA through the regular season of his senior year. The losing record has been affected by seventeen unearned runs, but he has struck out 33 and given up only 10 earned runs in 32 innings.
Fossand’s most impressive feat, though, is his active streak of shutout innings pitched in state tournament play. Dating to his sophomore season, Fossand has three consecutive complete-game shutouts. The 21 consecutive scoreless innings are a best at any level of the Minnesota high school baseball tournament.
“I’m proud of it, but mostly I’m proud of my team being able to be behind me. Because you don’t throw shutouts without defense behind you,” Fossand said. “I get my name on the stat sheet, but my team has been a huge part of that.”
The shutout streak is on track to be extended. St. Agnes, the No. 1 seed in the Section 4 playoffs, needs two more victories to earn Fossand his fourth start in the state tournament. The Aggies play Heritage Christian Academy on Tuesday at Midway Stadium, with Fossand scheduled to start. The winner advances to the section final Saturday.
Fossand knows he is not going to overwhelm hitters. His fastball averages 81 to 83 miles per hour and tops out at about 85. His offspeed pitches, however, are above average. Catcher Alex Kleve — and opponents — are convinced Fossand’s best pitch is his changeup.
His potential appears to be growing. His strikeouts-per-inning ratio and velocity have gone up each year, and his walks have come down. Dartmouth recognized the improvement and was willing to take a chance on the small private school recruit.
Fossand impressed the coaching staff at a Dartmouth baseball camp and got an offer in response.
“He’s definitely at the next level. He’s intimidating,” said Kleve, who admitted he was scared the first time he caught Fossand. “He knows what he wants to do.”
Pitching hasn’t always come easy for Fossand. His varsity debut as an eighth-grader lasted only one out, and he didn’t pitch again until the next season. The 84.00 ERA he racked up by giving up five runs (four earned), three hits and two walks in the debut continues to remind him he’s not invincible, even in Class 1A.
Two seasons with the Minnesota Blizzard traveling team also kept him grounded. He had the opportunity to pitch against and play with some of the state’s best hitters, including Division I athletes Logan Shore (Florida) and Matt Fiedler (Gophers). None of his Blizzard teammates knew about his shutout streak in the state tournament, and he pitched out of the bullpen.
It was in this secondary role that Dartmouth first caught a glimpse of Fossand. He pitched three innings in a tournament in Georgia for the Blizzard. The scout saw enough to invite him to the Big Green’s baseball camp in Hanover, N.H.
“He’s dominant. He doesn’t throw 90 mph, but the way he changes speeds, he blows opponents away,” said St. Agnes coach Mike Streitz, who formerly coached at Concordia (St. Paul) for 12 years. “Ever since he showed up at a baseball field, you could tell he had skills and potential. It’s about how he goes about his business. Some might call it swag, but he takes baseball seriously and from the moment he takes the field, you can tell he’s in control and he looks like he belongs there.”
In 2012, New York Mills was the first state tournament opponent to fall to Fossand. He shut out the previously undefeated Eagles 1-0 and struck out 12 in a quarterfinal game. Lac qui Parle Valley was Fossand’s next victim, in a 6-0 shutout in the 2012 Class 1A title game.
In last year’s tournament, Fossand pitched a four-hitter to beat Windom Area 1-0 in the quarterfinals. If St. Agnes reaches the state tournament again, he will have a chance to extend the streak.