Throwing a fastball in the low-80s as a freshman secured a spot on Zillah’s varsity staff, despite some consistency issues.

Reaching 93 miles per hour with improved control and some quality off-speed pitches could’ve been enough to put up historic numbers for the Leopards. Right-hander Ben Kibbe missed his chance to fulfill that potential as a senior at Zillah, but the Utah signee’s baseball future looks brighter than ever.

“There’s some teams where I could throw it by since I was a freshman and then there’s a better team like Naches (Valley) where I’ve got to hit my spots,” Kibbe said. “I’ve got to focus better.”

Coach Matt Brown said Kibbe’s maturity and high baseball IQ helped him earn SCAC West MVP honors last season, when he posted a 7-1 record with a 0.93 ERA and struck out 87 batters in 45 innings. The senior’s recruiting took off last summer after he dazzled pro scouts against Division I prospects at the Pacific Northwest Scout Games in Eugene, Ore.

Conversations with coaches from Gonzaga, Washington, Portland and elsewhere followed as he hit 91 on his fastball and developed an effective curveball. Kibbe visited Hawaii and Utah before committing to the Utes last September, thanks in large part to veteran pitching coach Gary Henderson.

“He said that he loved how my fastball ran in on righthanded hitters,” Kibbe said. “He liked my curveball. He said that I’ve got potential and he knows what to do.”

Early completion of online classes gives Kibbe some extra time to keep throwing bullpen sessions before graduating June 13 with a GPA around 3.8. He knows it’s important to prepare for an eventual life beyond baseball, but he’s working hard to achieve a lifelong dream of playing in the big leagues first.

Reach Luke Thompson at luthompson@yakimaherald.com and on Twitter: @luketscribe