AMERICAN FORK — American Fork’s Riley Ottesen positioned his footing against the rubber slab on the pitching mound during a blistering June evening. With his jersey tightly tucked and his cap salt-stained around the brim, the star pitcher threw above a photographer simulating a batting practice screen.
As he waited for the signal to proceed once again, he jokingly voiced his displeasure about inaccurately missing the zone. For the ensuing photo — his competitive nature ventilating — he wound up and zoomed his pitch directly over the dish.
“That was a strike,” he said with a grin.
Ottesen’s perfectionism in the middle of a photo shoot was just another example of his insatiable appetite to win.
He used that burning desire to win a state championship and 5A MVP award as a junior, and he used it again as a senior en route to another dominating season on the mound — and an even more prestigous award. Finishing with a stellar 17-2 career record in two years with the Cavemen, Ottesen caps off his prep career by being named the 2013 Deseret News Mr. Baseball recipient.
“Definitely humbling — surprising,” Ottesen said. “There’s amazing baseball players — (American Fork's) Zac Willis (is the) most unbelievable player and hardest worker I know; Bronson Larsen from Davis is an amazing catcher; (Bingham’s) Brennon Lund, Chase Tavonatti — all of those guys are studs. It’s pretty amazing to say that I was Mr. Baseball when they could have had a run for it just as easy as I could.”
“I think it’s well-deserved,” American Fork coach Jared Ingersoll said. “What Riley has done for us the last two years has been pretty remarkable. It’s really cool to have a kid in our program receive such an honor. … If you look at what he’s done offensively, on the mound and defensively, I don’t think anyone can argue (with the decision).”
Ottesen, who had free rein to call his own pitch sequence, commanded the mound with precision; winning his first six starts and finishing his senior year with an 8-1 record while playing in the toughest region in the state.
“His control and ability to throw his pitches on command, so to speak, in scouting vernacular we call that 'pitch ability,'” a major league scout explained. “He stays around the plate, has confidence in his pitches and believes he’s not going to get hit.”
In a little more than 63 innings of work, Ottesen registered strikes on 63.7 percent of his pitches and peppered first-pitch strikes 60 percent of the time. The right-hander threw 23 innings of 13 pitches or fewer and finished with 89 strikeouts and a glistening 1.54 ERA.
“He can throw his curveball — that’s probably his best pitch,” the scout said. “He’s not afraid to throw that at anytime in the count, which is unusual for high school kids because the majority of high school pitchers can’t throw their curveball for a strike. He could throw you a curveball in any count.”
Ottesen showcased his complete package in mid-April when he blistered 13 batters in 115 pitches for his first career no-hitter in a 6-0 win over Lehi.
“With Riley, usually if you get a couple of runs it should be good enough to win ‘cause he controls the game so well,” Ingersoll said. “ … He’s best when he’s really aggressive and gets after guys. When he keeps his pitch count down he gets really tough.”
Ottesen, who signed with the University of Utah but will first leave on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Aug. 7, wasn’t limited to pitching. At the plate, he slugged .382 with 34 hits — the second-highest mark on the team — and 21 RBIs.
“Pretty amazing — all of my top priorities for baseball have been accomplished,” Ottesen said of receiving the state’s most prestigious honor. “It’s always nice to know going out of high school that you accomplished your goals.”
For Ingersoll, statistics don’t measure comparably to Ottesen’s character and leadership for the program.
“He’s a genuine kid and it’s rare in today’s world for kids to be real, but that’s who he is. To his credit, he didn’t let it go to his head,” Ingersoll said in regard to Ottesen’s success his junior season. “He worked really, really hard in the offseason to prepare and it paid off. It says a lot about him as an individual that he’s never satisfied with what he’s accomplished.”
Ottesen’s legacy at American Fork will linger in the dugout for years to come. But, despite his illustrious career, he has one final obligation: laminating his Mr. Baseball edition newspaper for his mother.
“Yeah for my mom — not for me,” Ottesen quipped. “It’ll definitely be for my mom.”