“Consistent” best describes Ryan Krustangel at the plate – whether he’s batting or catching.
The left-handed hitting Ferris senior hit .464 a year ago in the Greater Spokane League and was a smidge better at .466 this spring. His other offensive statistics, year over year, are nearly identical.
As much as the University of Washington-bound Krustangel is pleased with his hitting, he takes as much pride, if not more, in his defensive abilities. Wild pitches rarely get past him, passed balls are as frequent as the sunshine was this spring and he has a strong throwing arm.
“Even if I have a bad day at the plate but I caught well, it’s a good day,” Krustangel said.
Ferris coach Jim Sharkey started to give Krustangel much latitude last year, allowing him to call pitches. The duty was turned over completely to him this season.
Standout pitcher Spencer Ansett (8-1) hardly flinches when Krustangel puts down a finger for a specific pitch.
“Maybe once or twice this year. Basically when he puts a finger down, 99 percent of the time that’s what I’m thinking I should throw,” Ansett said. “The rare times he puts a finger down and I disagree, I trust him and we go after the batter.”
Krustangel has been a catcher all his life.
“I like being in the game every single pitch,” Krustangel said. “I just fell in love with catching. I thought it was fun when I was little to put on the gear.”
Krustangel is quiet by nature. But when he speaks, teammates take heed.
Case in point was the lone game in which Ansett struggled during league. He was missing his spots and going deep into counts. Finally, Krustangel called time, walked to the mound and told Ansett what he thought about his pitching.
“He told me, ‘This is ridiculous,’” Ansett said.
Short and to the point.
Ansett and Krustangel, a three-year starter and four-year letterman, have played together the last four years either in high school or the summer.
“He’s not just a teammate but a friend,” Ansett said. “I learned from several (baseball) camps that it’s important for pitchers and catchers to work well together and know each other’s tendencies. We’ve established a pretty good relationship.”
Ansett is quick to share praise for his success this season with Krustangel.
“He’s half of what’s gotten me where I am,” Ansett said. “To be able to work with the same catcher for the last three, four years is amazing. It’s been so valuable.”
Krustangel committed to UW the summer before his junior year after a solid season playing for the Spokane Dodgers. Gonzaga University, Washington State University, Oregon and Oregon State also recruited him, but he believes he will be able to play sooner in Seattle than anywhere else.
“Their starter will be a senior next year,” said Krustangel, who has a 3.75 grade-point average and wants to major in business. “So hopefully by my sophomore season I can be the guy.”
Krustangel hit home run in his final at-bat in the first game of a season-ending doubleheader to extend his hitting streak to 18 games. Then it was snapped in the second game.
“I really wanted to take the streak into the playoffs,” Krustangel said.
Sharkey will long remember a homer Krustangel had during the streak. Make that a mammoth clout that just about landed in the KREM television parking lot south of the Saxons’ field. A fence stopped the ball from bouncing into the lot.
“It probably carried about 430 feet,” Krustangel said.
The ball hadn’t reached its peak when it cleared the 361-foot sign in right-center field.
Krustangel had another similar but shorter homer over the left-center fence at Avista Stadium in the district title game.
“He swings the bat so well,” Sharkey said. “He has as good a bat speed and power that I’ve seen. He’s hit some balls this year that I haven’t seen too many high school kids hit. The one he hit on our field just exploded off the bat.”
Sharkey has enjoyed watching Krustangel’s game mature.
“I think one of the big areas of growth is how he handles the pitchers,” Sharkey said. “Overall, his career has been a model of consistency.”