Tuesday night, Keegan helped his team to a 6-4 opening game victory over Oak Grove High School in the 6A state championship series. Tuesday he was playing second base, his position when not pitching. While he is a very good second baseman and a good hitter, where he has really stood out this season is on the mound. This season he has a 6-2 record with a 0.76 ERA. Teams are hitting .178 against him.
James described his improvement as a pitcher since last season when he had a 2.26 ERA and teams hit .240 against him.
"My pitching has come along way since last year," said James. "I've got a lot more control with all of my pitches. I have a really good feel and can spot it up better than I have ever before. My velo is up from working out in Collierville. I also tell myself that they aren't going to hit me. I take that mentality into every game I pitch. I strive to be the best and try to pitch like that."
While his control has improved dramatically, going from 20 walks in 49.2 innings to 9 in 55.1 this season, his velocity has also seen a dramatic improvement.
"This year I think I have been (throwing) 89-91 (miles per hour) and topped out at 93, 94," said James. "Last year I topped out at 91 and it was here (at Trustmark Park during the state championship). It was 100 degrees and I was really loose. I was probably sitting at 86-87. But all the working out has helped me. I have been squatting like crazy and doing core work. I have done a lot of med balls."
Not only has his velo increased, he has been able to maintain it through the entire game this season.
"I feel like the longer the season has gone on, the stronger my arm has been," said James. "The guys with the radar guns who I have been talking to the past couple of games have told me that when I get into the 5th, 6th, 7th inning is when I have been throwing the hardest. I get a good feel for my pitches the longer that I throw. The first two innings are the hardest for me to get through. After that, I kind of breeze."
Even though he still struggles sometimes in the first couple of innings, he has seen improvement in that area since last season.
"Last year the first couple of innings were brutal but this year I have gotten a lot better and made a big step," said James.
Obviously, with a very projectable body (6-2.5, 205 pounds) and good velocity that continues to improve, there are some Major League scouts who have been showing interest.
"Guys will talk to me before the games and will be behind the plate with their radar guns," said James. "I have also gotten two or three questionnaires. But they don't show up at my house. They are just low key about it."
But as of now, Mississippi State is most on his mind.
And Mississippi State's pitching coach Butch Thompson has James on his mind.
"I talk to Coach Thompson on occasion," said James. "He says to do your thing and they will transform us into whatever we want to do. He said to just be a kid right now."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.