“Don’t try to do too much,” is Citadel baseball coach Fred Jordan’s constant reminder to his team.
Few Bulldogs have taken the advice to heart more than senior pitcher Austin Pritcher.
“When I get out there and work at about 80 to 90 percent and get in that groove,” Pritcher said, “that’s when I do my best.”
Of course, it takes 100 percent commitment to find that sweet spot between 80 and 90 percent effort, as Pritcher has learned over the course of four years at The Citadel.
Two years as an understudy to Citadel aces Asher Wojciechowski and Matt Talley, an initial season as a Friday night starter last year and a renewed appreciation for the weight room have helped the 6-1, 200-pounder peak this season.
Pritcher is 4-2 with a 2.75 earned run average, ranking third in the Southern Conference, as the Bulldogs (21-17, 9-6) take a four-game win streak into this weekend’s series with Appalachian State (21-12, 10-7) at Riley Park.
“Austin is a true testament to development,” said Jordan. “He had his ups and downs as a freshman, a few weekend starts as a sophomore and now he’s just a very competitive guy for Friday night.
“He’s not going to beat himself, and he’s given us a quality outing almost every time out this year.”
Pritcher’s performance probably has been better even than the numbers indicate. The Bulldogs are 6-2 on Friday nights this season, and an average start for the right-hander from James Island includes about 61/3 innings, five hits, two walks, five strikeouts and two runs allowed.
No wonder Jordan calls him “Steady Eddie.”
“Coach Jordan always preaches that the Friday night guy sets the tone for the weekend,” said Pritcher, who pitched seven innings of shutout ball as the Bulldogs kicked off a three-game sweep at Georgia Southern with an 11-0 win last Friday. “Having Wojo and Talley ahead of me, they really showed me what work ethic is about. You don’t play one game and then sit on the bench the rest of the week.
“You pitch every seven days, and those guys showed me how to use those days to get ready to pitch.”
Pritcher has added a cut fastball to his arsenal of fastball, slider and changeup, helping him to attack left-handed hitters. But his biggest weapon is heart, Jordan said. His father, Donnie, wrestled at The Citadel, and older brother Robert played catcher at College of Charleston.
“He locates well on most nights, and he’s got that fighting heart,” Jordan said. “Austin will pitch himself out of jams just on sheer determination.”