It didn’t take long for Chamblee baseball coach Brian Ely to realize something was different this season.
Patrick Gaulden, who had been used sparingly as a starter last year, beat Riverwood in the Bulldogs’ season opener. It was the first time in eight seasons under Ely that Chamblee had beaten the Class AAA perennial playoff team.
Gaulden followed with wins over Lakeside and Redan on his way to a 9-2 record at the end of the regular season. The nine wins tied the school record set by David Jansen in 1985. Gaulden has a chance to break the record when the Bulldogs face Alexander on May 4-5 in a best-of-three series in the first round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
“I thought he would be an important part of our rotation but I had no idea he would come out and dominate,” Ely said. “He was pitching on Feb. 20 like it was April 20. He’s been impressive every start and has beaten some really tough teams.”
The 6-foot-4 junior is working to increase his velocity but has relied on spotting his fastball this season. Gaulden has a 1.65 earned run average through the end of the regular season.
“He’s really effective with the placement of his pitches,” Ely said. “He’s been able to get ahead in the count and keep batters guessing. He’s also been helped by the defense behind him. They’ve made some big plays for him and he’s delivered for them.”
Gaulden said he worked hard over the summer to get stronger in an effort to increase velocity on his pitches. He is primarily a fastball pitcher and throws in the low to mid 80s. He went from throwing three innings a game to going six innings most of the time this season.
“Before this year I wasn’t really known as a starting pitcher,” Gaulden said. “This year I became the go-to guy for us. I did a lot of work over the summer to improve, working out to get stronger and build up endurance.”
Gaulden said he did weight training and exercises to help him increase the velocity on his pitches.
His emergence as the Bulldogs’ top pitcher has helped the team tie the school record for number of wins in the regular season. Chamblee is 17-9, its most wins since going 19-7 (the most wins in program history) in 2008. This is the third playoff appearance in the past four seasons for the Bulldogs, but they have not won a first-round series since 1996.
“He’s been a pleasant surprise all the way around,” Ely said. “He’s one our of leading hitters and he’s got one of the highest grade point averages on the team.”
With another year to improve, Gaulden said he is hopeful he will be able to draw the attention of college scouts. He plays left field when he is not pitching and is batting higher than .300 this season.
“For next year I want to work on my strength and developing one more pitch,” Gaulden said. “I like to stick with my fastball, but my change-up works pretty good. Some colleges are looking but they’re not serious. I’m not there yet as far as my velocity goes. Before this year I had no idea people were interested in me, but it’s made me work harder.”