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Ferris ace Spencer Ansett is known for his finesse on the mound, not his velocity. (Dan Pelle)

Ferris pitcher Spencer Ansett shows perfect finesse

A week ago, Spencer Ansett was contemplating a handful of college opportunities.

When Ansett won a full-ride academic scholarship recently to Whitworth University, though, the Ferris baseball standout immediately knew those opportunities had been narrowed.

Ansett spent a weekend recently at Whitworth competing with 100 other students for one of two Honors Colloquium Scholarships, formerly known as the Presidential Scholarship. He had to write an essay in 45 minutes. He participated in group activities discussing a video, solving 35 problems and formulating an argument for a debate.

“In the group activities you were graded on how you related to people and how you showed your leadership abilities,” Ansett said. “At the end of the weekend I had no idea if I had done enough.”

Nine days later, Ansett was at practice when a Whitworth representative called and left a message on his voice mail. When he listened to the message, he couldn’t believe he was one of the two recipients of a scholarship valued conservatively in the $120,000 range and likely more as tuition fees increase.

So accepting the scholarship is a no-brainer?

“Exactly,” he said.

So on Tuesday, after throwing a one-hitter for his second win in six days against Gonzaga Prep, Ansett called Whitworth coach Dan Ramsey and told him he planned on enrolling in the fall.

“My parents and I have been talking about it the last few days,” he said. “It was too good of an opportunity to turn down. All along I’ve wanted to attend a Christian college. I’m a Christian, I love God and I love playing baseball for Him. The fact that I get to compete is a blessing.”

Ansett, who carries 3.75 grade-point average, doesn’t attend Ferris. He’s a student at The Oaks Academy, a private Christian school in Spokane Valley. He plays baseball at Ferris because he lives in the school’s boundaries.

Ferris coach Jim Sharkey is grateful to have Ansett on his team.

“When you meet him and talk to him for the first time he comes off as mild-mannered and respectful, and he’s all that,” Sharkey said. “But on the field he’s ultracompetitive.”

Ansett is a three-year letterman and two-year starter. He was a first-team all-Greater Spokane League selection last year.

“I remember when he showed up as a sophomore, he was this skinny lefty that kept getting people out,” Sharkey said.

Ansett is 5-0 with 38 strikeouts, seven walks and a 1.80 ERA this year. He’s 11-5 with 118 strikeouts and 32 walks in 100 1/3 innings pitched and a 2.16 ERA overall in three years.

He should get at least two more starts in the Saxons’ final eight league games.

“The kids love playing behind him because he always throws strikes,” Sharkey said. “He’s always effective. He changes speeds so well. He has a great change-up for a high school kid. He gets into more trouble when he tries to overpower people instead of hit spots.”

That was evident last week in a 7-6 win over Gonzaga Prep in what Ansett called his worst start of the year. He left after six innings with a 7-1 lead after striking out eight but walking four and allowing seven hits.

He couldn’t locate his fastball, which put more pressure on his best pitch, the change-up.

“My catcher came out at one point and said, ‘This is ridiculous’ and turned and walked away,” Ansett said. “He was not happy and I wasn’t happy. It was a rough day, but I battled. I guess I was effective enough to keep them off-balanced. They might not have known when I was going to throw a strike, either. I had no idea where the ball was going to go.”

The second win over G-Prep on Tuesday lifted Ferris (9-1) into sole possession of first place.

Ansett believes he’s improved measurably from a year ago.

“One area is I’m able to spot the fastball a lot better,” he said, last week notwithstanding. “I played for the Spokane Dodgers last summer and that instilled in me that I had to spot my fastball better. Another area that I’ve improved is my relationship with my catcher (Ryan Krustangel). We’re on the same page.”

Ansett’s velocity is down from last year, but some of it is because of an elbow injury he suffered through the winter.

He’s a pitcher who is going to need a third pitch to succeed at the next level. He’s working on developing a better curveball.

“I’m a finesse guy like Jamie Moyer,” Ansett said. “When I spot my fastball it makes my change-up better.”

In fact, it makes his fastball appear much faster than it is. His fastball isn’t sundial slow, but he tops out at 82 mph.

“He’s a pitcher, not a thrower,” Sharkey said. “Most high school kids are throwers, not pitchers.”

Ansett’s development as a pitcher and, more important, as a person has little do with himself, he said.

“I have a great set of parents,” he said. “Whenever I hear, ‘Spence is a good kid,’ it’s definitely because of them. And my ability or character you see on the mound has very little to do with myself and a lot to do with the people who are surrounding me.”