Repetition. It can be a pitcher’s best friend, committing to muscle memory a motion that must hold up under extreme pressure.
However, what does the pitcher’s mother do when her only son makes his pro pitching debut?
“I think he’ll do fine,” said Angie Reed, mother of Spikes’ pitcher Jimmy Reed, just before he made his first pro start in State College’s 8-3 victory over Williamsport. “We just look for first-pitch strikes.”
Clad in a red long-sleeved shirt, while her husband, Jim Sr., wore a red Cardinals hat and gray University of Maryland sweatshirt, Angie Reed grew more nervous as first-pitch time neared.
Reed, a 22-year-old left-hander from the University of Maryland, began the game with a strike to Gustavo Martinez, eliciting a smile from mom.
“Love those first-pitch strikes,” she said. Reed later struck out Martinez for his first career strikeout. He started nine of the 13 batters he faced with strikes.
It was a big night of firsts for the Spikes as 3, 033 fans at Medlar Field at Lubrano were treated to an offensive explosion by the home team and the debut of former Navy Midshipman Mitch Harris.
The Spikes (2-1) used 16 hits, three for extra bases, and a pair of 4-for-5 nights from Ronald Castillo and Bruce Caldwell to cruise to victory.
“That’s kind of, I don’t want to say what we expect from them, but with the group that we have here we believe that they’re going to be a good hitting club,” said Spikes manager Oliver Marmol.
Reed and Kevin Herget shared the start in a “piggyback” outing. Both fresh off college careers, the two pitchers were limited to around 50 pitches.
Herget (1-0), from division III Kean University in New Jersey, earned the win in his first pro appearance, pitching 3 1/3 innings of scoreless ball, giving up three hits and striking out two.
The 39th round pick used his off-speed pitches well, including a change-up that breaks down and away from left-handed batters.
Williamsport (1-2) actually jumped out to an early 2-0 lead after Reed got in trouble in the second after committing an error, walking a batter and giving up back-to-back RBI singles.
The sixth-round pick went two innings, allowed four hits, two runs (zero earned), walked one and struck out two. The runs were unearned because of his fielding error in the second.
“I felt like it was ok,” Reed said of his first start. “I think I’m heading in the right direction. Getting out there for the first time in a month, making my pro debut, it was awesome, aside from the result…”
His offense would pick him up quickly though. State College ran off four hits in a row with two outs in the fourth to grab a 3-2 lead.
Michael Schulze (1-for-2, RBI) doubled in a run in his Spikes debut and Steven Ramos (1-for-4, two RBIs) also hit a two-run single in the inning.
The Spikes continued bashing in the fifth, starting the inning with four hits more in a row.
Cesar Valera went 2-for-5 and nearly had an in-the-park homerun but was thrown out diving head first into home in the eighth.
The Spikes hope to take their hot bats to Auburn when they travel to face the Doubledays for a three-game set beginning Thursday at 7:05 p.m.
The Cutters bullpen struggled for the second time in the series, giving up eight hits and four runs after starter Joshua Warner (0-1) went four innings and gave up eight hits and three runs.
In Tuesday’s 11-inning defeat, the Cutters pen gave up four runs in the final frame.
In contrast, the State College relievers were strong again. Mitch Harris, 27, made his professional baseball debut after a nearly five-year active-duty commitment to the Navy.
The 13th round pick in 2008 retired all five batters he faced and hit 88 mph with his first offering. He was a consistent 92-93 mph pitcher coming out of college.
“Just like riding a bike,” Harris said. “Get that adrenaline going and just feel back at home.”
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound right-hander entered in the sixth, went an inning and two-thirds, and struck out the first hitter he faced.
“The biggest thing was pitch command,” Harris said. “All my pitches, I put them where I wanted and with good movement and that’s all I can ask for right now. As I continue to throw more I’ll keep gaining velocity…”
He entered the game to a nice ovation and thanked the crowd afterwards during an on-field victory interview. Marmol summed up the emotion nicely afterwards.
“That’s a guy you absolutely root for,” he said of Harris. “He still doesn’t have his best stuff, but you can never knock the way he just competes. … That’s going to boost his confidence. I know the staff is excited for him and he’s looking forward to his next outing.”