JOSH REAGAN COMPLETED his warm-up tosses at Carolina Stadium moments before Friday night’s Class 4A state championship game when Lexington High pitching coach Banks Faulkner motioned for Reagan to join catcher Nick Ciuffo on the bullpen bench.
Faulkner was a pitcher for Lexington on its last state title club in 1999. Earlier in the week, he dug around an old dresser drawer at home to find his championship ring. In the bullpen, he pulled the ring out of his back pocket.
“I’ve got something special for you tonight,” Faulkner told Reagan as he flashed the ring. “This is something that nobody, no matter how old or fat or ugly I get, can take away from me and that team.
“Now it’s your time.”
Reagan then went out and won a championship ring for him and his Lexington teammates. The left-hander, whose idol is former South Carolina great Michael Roth, performed his finest Roth impersonation with a three-hitter in Lexington’s 4-0 victory.
“That’s Josh. That’s what he does,” Lexington coach Brian Hucks said of Reagan. “He goes out there and throws strikes, keeps it in the zone and we play incredible behind him. I’m going to see if I can get a redshirt year out of him.”
There will be no redshirt season for Reagan because he will take his slants to the same stadium and same mound a year from now. That is where USC fans will get to see a reincarnation of the greatest pitcher in program history.
Reagan’s fastball tops out at 81-82 mph, just like Roth’s did when he entered USC as a freshman. Reagan doesn’t dazzle with electric stuff. Opposing hitter after opposing hitter shakes his head when he trudges back to the dugout. Most cannot put a solid swing on his pitches because he lives on the corners with his fastball and breaking ball.
Friday’s win against Blythewood was vintage Reagan. He struggled in the first inning, allowing a double off the left-fielder’s glove and a single that died on the grass in front of the third baseman.
Regan said he has struggled all season in the first inning. Then he found his rhythm.
“That’s my goal is to get in cruise control,” Reagan said.
Auto-pilot might be the more apt description. Over the final six innings, Reagan walked two batters, hit another and allowed a single off the third baseman’s glove. He retired 11 of the final 12 batters he faced and finished with six strikeouts.
Roth-like, no doubt.
Reagan said he attended as many USC games as he could that Roth pitched, watched him every chance he got on TV and even changed his mechanics to better emulate Roth.
Reagan has a compact windup and delivers the ball at a three-quarters arm angle. Because of Roth, he learned to occasionally drop down with his arm angle, to give opposing batters a different look.
Where Reagan is most like Roth is the final boxscore, where a ‘W’ usually follows his last name.
“He’s a winner,” Faulkner said of Reagan, who the coach has worked with off and on since he was 12 years old. “I’ve coached a lot of kids who are bigger, and a lot of kids who throw harder, but he’s the best pitcher I’ve ever coached.”
The win Friday left Reagan with an 11-0 record and 1.13 earned run average during his senior season. Over the past two seasons, Reagan never lost in 18 decisions while compiling a 1.08 ERA.
“There are not a lot of times in anybody’s life they can say they were perfect, but he’s been perfect for us,” Faulkner said. “He’s a warrior. He’s somebody you get to coach once in a lifetime.”
Now, like Faulker, Reagan and his Lexington teammates will have a championship ring and state title they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.