Pitching leads to a resurgent baseball season
The Blue Raiders baseball team is in a completely different place than it was supposed to be.
Despite some rough outings in recent games—particularly in a 10-3 loss to Austin Peay, a 5-1 loss to Vanderbilt and two series losses to Troy and Louisiana-Munro—the key stats are in pitching, where MT’s 4.23 ERA prior to a rough weekend at Munro ranked third in the Sun Belt behind Florida International and Louisiana-Lafayette.The squad’s 23-18 record (10-8 Sun Belt) exceeds last year’s total wins by five in 14 fewer games—a solid mark for a team that was picked last in a preseason Sun Belt coaches poll.
With Sunday starter Eric Gilley graduated, and Friday starter Daniel Palo pitching mainly in relief, Coach Steve Peterson remade his weekend staff, moving junior Hunter Adkins from Saturday to Friday and inserting true freshman on Saturday. Peterson also added junior-college transfer Jonathan Sisco on Sunday.
“Frebis and Sisco have shown right off the bat what type of competitors they are,” Peterson said. “Johnathan Frebis, just being a rookie, just a freshman, he doesn’t even have the benefit of the doubt. Sisco, first year here, but he’s had two years of junior college, so he’s had a little experience… I think they are really pushing Hunter Adkins, showing him how important it is to get into the late innings and get into the sixth and seventh inning.”
Adkins entered the season with the most to prove of any of the starting staff. In 2011, Adkins posted a 2-9 record with a 5.44 ERA.
In 2012, Adkins has posted a 5-4 record, trimming his ERA to 4.05 and finding the strike zone, striking out 50 and walking 22.
Although he has struggled occasionally– notably against Louisiana-Munro, when he gave up five earned runs on 9 hits as part of a 13-0 loss– the turnaround from last season is apparent.
“I just tried to eliminate the walks,” Adkins said. “That was my big thing last year was I walked just as many as I struck out, and that was terrible. I gave up 15 homeruns last year and 16 my freshman year, and this year I’m just trying to get in the strike zone more, and that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing.”
Sisco and Frebis, both Murfreesboro natives who were opponents in high school while Sisco played for Blackman High School and Frebis with Riverdale, now team up to try to produce series wins on the clinching Saturday and Sunday contests.
Sisco caries a 5-3 mark and a 3.07 ERA.
While Sisco played two seasons at Volunteer State, Frebis executed the full leap from high school to college starter.
Peterson said Frebis exhibited a consistency and a work ethic through fall and the preseason workouts that impressed him and made Frebis and easy choice for a spot on the starting staff.
Frebis responded and currently maintains a 4-2 record with a 2.78 ERA and has nearly matched Adkins’s strike out to walk numbers, striking out 49 and walking 24. Although he showed signs of struggle in a 6-2 loss to Troy on April 14, when he gave up two runs on three hits, but walked five while striking out two, Peterson said Frebis is simply dealing with aspects of adjusting to college baseball.
“Now he’s finding out the hard part of, now you’re not going to be good every time out and now you’ve got to get in that grind of being that guy once a week,” Peterson said. “In high school lots of times it was just four or five innings in seven-inning games, and now we’re asking him to get in that seventh and eighth inning.”
Frebis responded against Louisiana-Munro, when he pitched into the eighth inning, sitting down 10 hitters in a row at one point in a 3-2 victory.
With six weekend-series victories to thier name, Peterson said he planned no changes, noting that most of the pitching problems come mainly in Tuesday and Wednesday games.
For Adkins, who knows about pitching-staff struggle, it is a comforting sign to be a part of a confident squad.
“When they’re pitching well, everyone is lights out,” Adkins said of Sisco and Frebis. “They’re catching on well, and it’s great to see everybody kind of click as a team.”