What did you take from the spring to the Cape Cod League this past summer?
"I realized that with Coach T (Butch Thompson) you have to be such a pitcher. And I only had two pitches last year. So, with the fastball and slider the hitters knew everything (that I was throwing) was coming hard. Teams were laying off the slider and when I wasn't locating the fastball, then I completely struggled. (Coach Thompson) told me to work on the changeup and the slider more during the summer so I could throw more strikes with them.
"And this summer I did that. And my (summer league) coach helped me out a lot on getting my changeup going. It was big for me to establish a changeup so that I could throw the hitters timing off a little more."
Had you not used a changeup in the past?
"No, I haven't really used a changeup at all. I used it a little in juco but it really wasn't a quality pitch."
Normally, a pitcher will struggle when learning a new pitch. But you had a 1.80 ERA in the Cape Cod League, which has the best hitters in the collegiate summer leagues. How did you accomplish such great success while learning a new pitch?
"We really worked hard on it for the first week. Everyday I put time aside to work on it. My coach there put me through a couple of drills so I could work on it. And our coach told us to pull the window shade down. So, when I was pitching I focused on getting good extension and pulling the window shade down. But the best way to learn it is to throw it. So, the first couple of games I knew that I had to throw it no matter the outcome, which helped me get a feel for it. It ended up clicking and I kept throwing it. Over time all the repetition made it become a good pitch. As I got more feel for it, I was able to move it to the sides of the plate and know where it was going instead of just throwing it."
I have no clue what you mean by pulling the window shade down.
"What that means is you act like you are pulling a window shade down when you throw it."
How much did the changeup help you with the use of your other pitches?
"It helped a lot. I could get through a lineup once, sometimes two times, without even having to throw a slider. Later in the game or if a lefty was batting and maybe some runners were on in scoring position, then I would go to the slider because they hadn't seen it yet. It helped me go longer in games because they hadn't see all of my pitches. I also worked hard on getting my fastball control back, too. Then, I was able to hit both sides of the plate with both fastballs and changeups. I was also able to get more extension on the slider, which made it more of a quality pitch."
How much did your fastball improve over the course of the summer?
"It did change. Last year I built up a lot of strength in the weight room working with (MSU Baseball Strength and Conditioning) Coach (Brian) Neal. But I was just trying to do too much with it last year. This summer I was really focused on getting back to trusting my stuff. So, I got back behind the baseball, got good follow-through and extension and that jumped the velo up a little bit. And the command was instantly there. That was good to see."
You mentioned command. You had 20 walks in 40 innings during the summer but that was deception wasn't it?
"Yeah, I had two bad starts (6 walks in 6.2 innings) when I was trying to overthrow again like I did last year. The starts were in the middle of the season. I started off good, then hit a little rough patch, then finished the year strong."
With the kind of success that you had during the summer, how much confidence do you have going into the fall?
"It gave me a lot of confidence. Even after struggling last year, I still had confidence in my stuff but I knew I had to get better. This year, after having success the first couple of outings, that gave me even more confidence in my stuff. And as you continue to roll it continues to increase your confidence."
Did Coach Thompson send you to the team you went to because the pitching coach on that team was someone that he has a lot of confidence in to help teach the changeup?
"I'm sure he had confidence in whatever pitching coach that he sent me to, but that was the same one that Kendall Graveman went to a couple of years ago. And he developed a really good changeup. It was great for him to be able to set me up with that guy this summer."
Not only did you have great summer during the summer but you had it in the premier league in college baseball, the Cape Cod League. That had to boost your confidence even more.
"It is always good to face hitters who you saw in the College World Series this year. They are now in the Cape and you get to face them, and you are getting them out. Or you are seeing fellow SEC guys at the plate and you are getting them out. It just gives you a lot of confidence going into this next year."
Did you get to face Reid Humphreys during the summer?
"I didn't. We played his team and I was watching him. He tore us apart a couple of times, him and Robbie (Jacob Robson). Their hard work has paid off. They keep grinding, getting a-bats, seeing pitches. They both have it. And they are putting it together more and more. And that is fun to see."