Saturday, July 4, 2009
Summer League Buckeyes: Best becoming one of the GLSCL's best
Photo courtesy Jim Davidson at the-ozone.net
I've been fortunate this season to snag an internship with the Licking County Settlers of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League that has teams here in Ohio and in Indiana. The GLSCL is a summer league that houses most of its players from the MAC, the Horizon Conference, a few DIII and NAIA schools, but sprinkled in will be the occasional Big Ten player from Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State, and Indiana.
Most seasons the Buckeyes will have a little more than half a dozen of its players playing in the GLSCL, most notably with the Columbus All Americans who played their games out of Bill Davis Stadium, and the Delaware Cows. For the 2009 season and foreseeable future the All Americans and Cows removed themselves from the summer league eliminating two local havens for Buckeyes to play, and as a result only one Ohio State student-athlete graces a GLSCL roster this summer.
Eric Best the upcoming Senior left-handed pitcher from Olentangy Liberty in Lewis Center, OH, is spending his second summer with the Licking County Settlers. His two stints in the GLSCL is sandwiched around his 2008 summer in the Alaskan League.
The early disappointment in not seeing other Buckeyes this summer as I travel and call games involving the Settlers and the 8 other teams in the league has been washed away by the efforts and performances Best has put on. I've been able to call and provide commentary in two of Eric's three starts this summer and it has been a joy seeing Best take the mound throwing and reaching the potential he flashed at times this past spring.
On the year Best has appeared in three games all being starts, thrown 14 innings, allowing 3 runs all earned, striking out twelve while yet to yield a walk. As a result of his dominance Best is 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA, a .241 batting average against a .92 WHIP surrendering just 13 hits in those 14 innings.
Best has thrived under the tutelage of Settlers pitching coach Kory Hartman who from 2005-2009 was the pitching coach at Ohio Dominican University here in Columbus. Hartman resigned from that position to become the first head coach in program history as the University of Northwest Ohio will be fielding its first baseball program starting in 2011. Hartman was able to develop two ODU Panthers into draft picks this past spring, and his knowledge and commitment to the pitching aspect of baseball has undoubtedly progress Best as a pitcher.
Best as the Buckeyes #3 and Sunday starter this past Spring did an admirable job, returning to the rotation after spending the prior season and summer working strictly as a closer. Best with 7-4 with a 5.95 for Bob Todd's Buckeyes during their Big Ten Championship season.
Though he was effective, there were times where Best would struggle to secure a quality start and go a solid 6 or 7 innings. In fact only twice in Big Ten play did Best go 6 innings, coming in the conference opening Penn State series and the Big Ten Championship clinching and season finale Iowa game.
When Eric struggled and conversely when he was on top of his game throwing late into games, Best's walks were the key issue. In 75.2 innings, Best placed 34 base-runners on via the free pass. When Best put a runner on base courtesy of a walk and throwing out of the stretch it appeared he was unable to fully get his breaking ball over and in for strikes and that produced an over-reliance of fastballs and compounding control issues. Also due to the lack of healthy arms, Best was a pitcher Bob Todd at times threw mid-week, following his summer start, not fully giving Eric the time need to rest and really work on finer aspects of his game.
This summer has been a completely different Best. Outside of having a set pitching schedule and numerous days off between starts, when he has started its been good. The excellence of Best goes further than issuing 0 walks in 14 innings. when the count goes 3-2, or 3-1, he is able to locate his off-speed pitches and getting his breaking ball in for strikes. Being able to keep hitters off balance has been a major part of Best's early summer success, in being able to throw three pitches for strikes allows him to really control at-bats and get out of trouble if it comes his way. Best has found the tools and pitching with effectiveness that made him a successful starter in his 2006 freshman season.
With the graduation of All American closer Jake Hale some assume the closer's role might go back to Best, given the way he performed as a closer in both the spring and summer 2008 seasons. Given the way I have seen him pitch this summer, the confidence he has, and the stuff he has shown, if Best does remain a starter, the Buckeyes in 2010 will have an entire weekend rotation that can lead them to a defense of the Big Ten Championship.
The Settlers play their games at Don Edwards Park in Newark, Ohio. Best's next start will probably come Tuesday July 7th, as the Settlers take on the Southern Ohio Copperheads. You can catch Settlers home games online, and listen to me and the voice of the Settlers Ben Bradley by following this link.