The Horned Frogs’ pitching staff should be the team’s strong point this season with 10 players returning from last year’s squad and the addition of a first-round draft pick to the pitching staff.Head coach Jim Schlossnagle said he had an idea of what the rotation will be but was not yet set on who will start.
“Some combination of Steven Maxwell, Kyle Winkler, Paul Gerrish, Matt Purke and probably Greg Holle right now,” Schlossnagle said. “Those would be the five guys kind of fighting for four spots.”
Gerrish, a senior, came out of the bullpen last year before becoming a starter against San Diego State University on March 28, 2009.
Gerrish posted a record of 7-2 with a 3.84 earned run average. He pitched 61 innings last season and led the team in 59 strikeouts. He also kept the Frogs from being swept by Texas in the Super Regional with a dominating pitching performance.
Winkler, a sophomore, had a strong start to his Horned Frog career last year, going 7-1 with 4.15 ERA and starting 14 games. He threw 73.2 innings in 2009 and struck out 48 batters. Winkler has also been invited to the national team tryouts. The lone loss he had last season was against Texas in the Super Regional.
Purke, a freshman left-handed pitcher, came to Fort Worth with high accolades. He was the 14th overall pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball draft and was drafted by the Texas Rangers. Rivals.com rated him as the top overall high school prospect.
Schlossnagle said Purke will be one of starters this season.
“As a freshman (Purke), seems like he is ready to jump right into the rotation and help us get to the championship,” said Maxwell, a junior pitcher. “To see that from a freshman is a pretty huge deal.”
Schlossnagle said two of the pitchers who made the biggest improvement in the fall were Holle and Maxwell.
“Maxwell has shown signs of being better after surgery,” Schlossnagle said. “Greg Holle had a really, really strong fall, and we think he’s finally got a chance to be the pitcher that we need him to be.”
Holle started nine games last season. The 6-foot-8 pitcher struck out 26 batters in 41.2 innings and had a 5-2 record.
Maxwell returned from Tommy John surgery, or ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, in 2009 to start 10 games for the Frogs. He went 3-2, posted a 6.10 ERA last year and struck out 27 batters during the 38.1 innings he pitched.
Maxwell said he worked on getting his confidence back in his pitches and getting his arm stronger after the surgery.
“My arm is feeling great and as strong as it ever has,” he said. “My velocity has gone up to pass what it was before I even had surgery.”
Maxwell has been telling the younger pitchers to make every pitch they throw count.
“One of the things I learned after having surgery is you never know when your last pitch is going to be,” he said. “So you need to go out there and take every pitch as serious as possible.