After being drafted in the 13th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003, Olvey said he felt like a man without a role in South Bend, spending most of his time pitching out of the bullpen while trying to work his way into the starting rotation.
So, instead of staying up North and counting the games until the end of his college days, the junior right hander from Pelham, Ala. decided to transfer to LSU. And, judging by the way he's pitched so far, that has been the unluck of the Irish.
Olvey has been, without question, the brightest spot during a relatively surprising first three weeks of the season for the eighth-ranked Tigers who won 2-of-3 over Houston last weekend to run their record to 13-2. He has already recorded a 4-0 record in this season's infancy and leads all Tiger starters with an eye-popping 0.30 earned run average. He also leads the SEC in innings pitched with 30.1 and has given up a scant 15 hits in that span while striking out 20 and walking just three.
"I'm very excited about the way I've started but I can't say that I expected it," Olvey said. "Things are very good for me right now and I feel more comfortable than I did at Notre Dame. This is a different situation and a whole different environment and I'm more confident here."
Last Saturday against Houston, Olvey took that confidence and comfort to the mound and calmly and very efficiently tossed seven innings of shut-out, three-hit ball while striking out five, walking one and throwing just 84 pitches. His performance allowed the Tigers to minimize their time in the field and concentrate on scoring seven runs on 11 hits.
Saturday's 7-0 win over the visiting Cougars evened the three-game series at 1-1 and came on the heels of a dominating performance by Cougar pre-season, second-team All -American Brad Lincoln, who overwhelmed the Tiger bats with a biting curve ball and a blazing fastball that crossed the plate in the low 90's.
"It's enormous that he (Olvey) has pitched the way he has early this season, especially on Saturday in that situation," said Tiger Pitching Coach Brady Wiederhold. "He got us off the field and got our bats going. Brad Lincoln showed us his best stuff Friday night, the best stuff he's had since going to Houston, and shut us down. But, if you look at it, Derik pitched just as well, maybe better."
LSU head coach Smoke Laval said Olvey doesn't really so anything fancy. He doesn't have the ability to overpower the opponent like other right-handers Tigers fans have cheered in the past. But, he doesn't beat himself by getting behind and walking batters.
"He fills up the zone with three pitches for strikes that cover the belly button to the knees," Laval said. "He controls the game. As long as we keep playing good defense, knock on wood, he gives us a chance to win. He's not going to strike out 12 but he also won't have to throw 130 pitches to win a game."
None of that has surprised Laval, who said he and the rest of the team got an indication of how consistent Olvey could be when he posted a team-best 1.80 ERA in 20 innings during fall intrasquad play.
"He's doing what I expected because it's what I saw all fall," Laval said. "I don't know what he did at Notre Dame and I don't pay attention to that stuff. But I saw what he was capable of from day one."
Olvey missed most of his freshman season at Notre Dame with a sore elbow and compiled just a 2-2 record last season with a 5.59 ERA while walking 15 and striking 25. He will undoubtedly be counted on much more this season in a Tiger rotation still undecided.
Wiederhold said Olvey's efficiency so far has allowed the coaching staff to concentrate on getting other LSU pitchers ready for the rest of the season. The Tigers are trying to work two potential No.3 starters back into shape with potential Sunday throwers Daniel Forrer and Michael Bonura both missing last season because of arm surgery. Those two combined to limit Houston's bats enough Sunday to allow LSU to rally for four runs in the eighth inning on their way to a 5-3 win.
"Those guys are coming around and we've got some young guys who are working on their confidence right now too," Wiederhold said. "When you miss an entire season like those guys did, it takes a while to get back and get comfortable. It's good to have someone like Derik you can send out there and feel confident he's going to get the job done. I'm just glad he transferred here."
Despite growing up about an hour from Auburn and knowing several players at both Alabama and Auburn, Olvey said he never really considered going back to his home state. He just wanted to be within driving distance.
"It's going to be fun going back to Auburn this year and having the chance to play in front of my family," he said. "But I like being out of state and I like being here. Notre Dame was just too far away. I feel like the guys here know me and it's nice to finally be in a place I'm starting to love with a coach who's happy to have me."
Olvey showing his stuff as stellar #2 starter
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