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CHAMPAIGN — No two baseball pitchers will develop their craft in exactly the same fashion.

Likewise, young hurlers have different ways of showing just how they might become the next big thing on the mound.

Case in point: Tuscola junior Logan Tabeling.

In his elementary school days, Tabeling served as bat boy for dad Ryan when the latter coached the Warriors baseball team from 2006 through 2010.

"I have a few pictures of myself back in 2008, state championship game," Logan Tabeling said, "I was out there throwing on the mound, like in the bullpen and stuff. That was awesome."

But that just shows Tabeling really wanted to pursue pitching as he got older. It didn't necessarily mean he'd have success.

Except Tabeling has a follow-up to that story.

"(Ryan) had to go the bathroom or something," Tabeling said. "(Assistant coach Josh Shelmadine) was just like, 'You can call the pitches.' So I went ahead and called the game.

"I struck out three people or something crazy like that."

That's what you call a sign of good things to come.

And so they have, with Tabeling earning The News-Gazette's All-Area baseball Player of the Year status in 2019 after a largely dominant campaign at Tuscola.

As a key cog returning from the Warriors' 2018 Class 2A third-place squad, Tabeling did not disappoint. He compiled nine wins and a 1.27 ERA in more than 60 innings tossed, and was the only area pitcher to hit triple digits in strikeouts with 126.

For good measure, the Wright State commit added a .338 batting average with two home runs and 13 RBI.

Talk about Tabeling's baseball trajectory, however, will come back to his pitching.

Rightfully so.

"It's just been in my life forever," Tabeling said. "I just love the game so much that I just don't ever want to stop."

★ ★ ★

Other indicators existed that pitching could take Tabeling somewhere.

Like a no-hitter he posted versus Villa Grove at age 10. Or a trip to Georgia with the Illinois Braves' 14U travel team.

"These guys were amazing, and there's kids from all over the place playing," Tabeling said. "The first game I pitched, that was the time where I felt like I was one of the top guys, and that's where I built from."

In order to seriously address his potential, Tabeling started making trips with his dad to The Cage in Champaign, a training facility located not far off Centennial High's campus.

That began when he was 10 years old. Current and former teammates — such as Lucas Kresin, Michael Ludwig, Ryan Bartley, Cale Sementi and Noah Pierce — have joined at various times.

Tabeling to this day plans out a three-day-a-week schedule at The Cage during the winter.

The building offers plenty of space for long toss as well as the operation of a weighted-ball regiment known as Driveline. A quick online search shows the likes of current Cleveland Indians star Trevor Bauer utilizing this program.

"I've been doing that since probably my freshman year," Tabeling said. "It's really helped my arm strength to build a lot. I think the first time I did it, I gained like 10 miles per hour, and then it just keeps increasing over the years."

Even more recently, first-year Warriors coach Adam Carver helped to set up a weight-training element within The Cage. Carver's full-time work at Carle Orthopedics and Sports Medicine makes him an ideal match with Tabeling's desire to become a more well-rounded athlete.

"If you're stronger, you can do whatever you want," Tabeling said. "From having that, I've been able to do so many more things with my body that I've never been able to."

★ ★ ★

It doesn't feel like there's anything the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Tabeling can't achieve when it comes to his pitch selection.

Back when he was flinging that no-hitter against Villa Grove, Tabeling solely relied on a fastball.

"When you're that young," Tabeling said, "you don't need to be throwing curveballs."

But Tabeling now has developed a devastating noon-to-six breaker. He says he didn't try to imitate anyone else's grip when establishing his curve.

"I just made it up one day," Tabeling said. "I just throw it every day and see the rotation, and eventually it just got to the point where it was probably one of my best pitches."

It was heavily on display both last year and throughout this season. That hasn't changed during his 2019 travel ball season, either.

Earlier this month, Tabeling recorded four strikeouts in a single inning because one of his third strikes got away from the catcher.

"Whenever I make people look stupid is the best thing," Tabeling said with a smile. "The travel guys, after I get done playing with them, they're just like, 'Wow, that curveball, I can't believe (it).' It's nice to hear that from some other people."

Tabeling's repertoire currently consists of four pitches, though he's not terribly enamored with his changeup at this time.

The story of how a fourth pitch came to be involved is an interesting one.

"Against (Champaign) Central, the second game we played them (a 2-1 Tuscola win on May 10), I brought my slider," Tabeling said. "That was my first time bringing that in. ... I just threw it in the bullpen, and then all the sudden I was like, 'Wow, that looks pretty good.'"

★ ★ ★

Tabeling has formed a penchant for showing up in a big way when the Warriors need him most, like in that regular-season victory over a tough Central program.

As a sophomore, that was in the 2A state semifinal game with Spring Valley Hall.

Tabeling got the nod after Pierce received the previous Monday's super-sectional assignment. And Tabeling was on point, permitting just one earned run in 7 2 / 3 innings while striking out 14 across 118 pitches.

"Unless something crazy happens senior year," Tabeling said, "that was by far the best I've pitched in my entire life."

This year, Tabeling had to bring out the big guns a little earlier, since Tuscola was stopped one game shy of a second straight state tournament berth with a loss in the Elite Eight.

In a sectional championship game versus St. Joseph-Ogden, Tabeling mustered another 14 punchouts in a complete-game four-hitter, this time allowing no foes to cross home plate, helping deliver Tuscola a dramatic 1-0 win with Kresin's single serving as the walk-off winner.

"The atmosphere was insane," Tabeling said. "Just knowing that we don't really like St. Joe, they don't like us ... they wanted to come at us again."

That effort helped Tabeling solidify one of his big junior-year goals: finishing with 100 strikeouts.

Before he treks to Dayton, Ohio, in the summer of 2020 to start a college baseball career at Wright State, Tabeling has one last shot to garner some additional high school fame.

Among the individual targets: 10 wins and either 150 strikeouts or 2 1 / 2 strikeouts per inning.

"And a state championship," Tabeling said, "of course."

Honor Roll: News-Gazette All-Area baseball Players of the Year

YEAR ATHLETE SCHOOL

2019: Logan Tabeling, Tuscola

2018: Dalton Hoel, Tuscola

2017: Colton Hale, St. Joseph-Ogden

2016: Dalton Parker, St. Joseph-Ogden

2015: Dylan Grady, Centennial

2014: Joe Aeilts ,Champaign Central

2013: Hunter Hart, St. Joseph-Ogden

2012: Chuckie Robinson, Danville

2011: Jason Ziegler, Mahomet-Seymour

2010: Brannon Kwiatkowski, Mahomet-Seymour

2009: J.D. Learnard, Salt Fork

2008: Clayton Meyer, Tuscola

2007: Neil Wright, Mahomet-Seymour

2006: Alex Acheson, Champaign Central

2005: Alex Acheson, Champaign Central

2004: Andy Pollock, Tuscola

2003: Ryan Bird, Armstrong-Potomac

2002: Ryan Bird, Armstrong-Potomac

2001: Joey Frerichs, Armstrong-Potomac

2000: Matt Minnes, Urbana

1999: Mike Saunches, Argenta-Oreana

1998: Travis Florey, Sullivan

1997: Jason Anderson, Danville

1996: Dave Hoffman, Schlarman

1995: Quinn Moller, Centennial

1994: Caleb Englehardt, Tuscola

1993: Doug Little, Monticello

1992: Jeff Martin, Mahomet-Seymour

1991: Troy Pruitt, Mahomet-Seymour

1990: Kerry Cheely, Villa Grove

Prep Sports Coordinator

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).