By LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
© 2012 Collegiate Baseball
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — RHP Nick Petree of Missouri State has been named Collegiate Baseball’s National Player of The Year after posting one of the dominant seasons in NCAA Division I history.
Petree didn’t allow an earned run over 73 straight innings during a 12-game stretch from March 2-May 17 which is believed to be an all-time NCAA record.
The NCAA Baseball Record Book does not have a category for consecutive scoreless innings without giving up an earned run by a pitcher.
But the record for consecutive scoreless innings is 60 set by George Plender of Vermont during the 1954-55 seasons.
During Petree’s streak, three unearned runs were given up. He had two notable scoreless streaks of 26 innings (March 2-30) and 38 1/3 innings (April 6-May 17) where no runs of any kind scored.
The 38 1/3 innings of scoreless pitching was the nation’s longest this season as well.
Through the regular season, Petree had the lowest ERA of starting pitchers in the nation at 0.92 over 15 appearances (107 1/3 innings) with 109 strikeouts, 34 walks and a 10-3 record.
“Everybody was on pins and needles watching this (73 inning) streak,” said Paul Evans, pitching coach for 24 years at Missouri State.
“Nick’s stuff doesn’t jump out at you. He is an 85-88 mph righthander with average size (6-foot-1, 195 pounds). But what he does have is incredible intelligence, and is an ultra competitor. He can locate two types of fastballs (2-seam and 4-seam), has an outstanding changeup and mixes in a cutter and slurve.
“He stays within himself very well and knows how to execute pitching sequences. He also is a hell of a fielder who was a shortstop in high school. Before games, you will always see Nick taking ground balls in the outfield from someone hitting him fungos to help him stay sharp defensively.
“Being a great defensive pitcher has definitely aided him in this amazing streak. He has thrown a lot of innings and dealt with rain and done whatever it takes to keep the streak alive.
“He had runners on second and third with no outs during the streak against Illinois State and got out of it without a run scoring. There have been runners on first and third with no outs and first and second with no outs, but he has responded by stopping the other team from scoring.”
Evans said Petree also possesses an incredible pickoff move which keeps runners close to bags. He has picked off two runners this season and came close to getting many more.
“Nick mixes pitches so well, and he knows how to attack lefthanded hitters and righthanders. He has a drop down fastball which he can spot up. In addition, he has two different types of breaking pitches — one over the top and another from the side as he mixes in a cutter. Nick has a full bag of tricks. He also is a down to earth kid who everybody on the team likes.”
Evans said that Petree is highly intelligent with a major in computer information systems.
Missouri State is one of the few teams in college baseball that allows pitches to be called by the catcher. The vast majority of teams have the pitching coach call pitches from the dugout.
“Our coaching staff doesn’t call pitches except for rare situations,” said Evans.
“Our catcher Luke Voit does a superb job with calling pitches and has been important in this streak as well. We have extensive scouting reports on opposing teams and go over these reports with our pitchers and catchers. Luke does a great job back there. I might call a few pitches here and there. But normally I don’t. I feel the rhythm of the game is better when the catcher calls pitches. It makes for a cleaner, faster game.”
Evans said above everything else, Petree is extremely competitive and doesn’t beat his chest when he is successful on the mound to show up opponents. Petree is more of a silent assassin.
“Nick is very analytical and knows what he is doing.”
Tommy John Surgery
What has really been forgotten in this amazing streak is what Petree had to endure only three years ago after he graduated from Clinton H.S. (Clinton, Mo.).
After he graduated, he was pitching for his summer team during the summer of 2009 and felt pain in the middle of his forearm.
“I had thrown a lot during my senior year of high school,” said Petree.
“And it was in the second or third tournament of the summer that I felt a sharp pain in my right forearm area. Then I threw more pitches, and the pain only got worse with each one. The pain then started to shoot down toward my right elbow.”
Petree was quickly taken out.
“I went to a local doctor, and he felt it might be tendonitis but wasn’t sure. So I rested my arm for 4-6 weeks and then began throwing again. My arm didn’t hurt at the time. I talked to the trainer at Missouri State about my situation, and he immediately told me to get an MRI on the arm. So I had that done, and the radiologist told me he didn’t see anything wrong with my arm. The trainer asked that he see a copy of the MRI so that he could evaluate it as well as the orthopedic guy at Missouri St.
“Once they looked at it, they all felt my right elbow ligament was torn. And Tommy John surgery was performed in Springfield, Mo. at St. John’s Hospital on Sept. 17, 2009.”
He then redshirted during the 2009/2010 school year at Missouri St. and rehabbed the elbow for a year following surgery.
“I was on a strict throwing program in the fall of 2010 at Missouri St. and then was able to pitch during the 2011 season.”
Petree put together a 9-2 record with a 2.81 ERA and fanned 81 batters with 27 walks over 96 innings and was a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American chosen by Collegiate Baseball.
Because of the amount of innings he threw, he only went 26 innings during the summer of 2011 in five starts as he essentially rested his arm.
“Last fall, I progressed normally as I threw an inning here and there. Then I got bumped up to 2-3 innings and started a couple of games during our Fall World Series. I honestly didn’t have that great of a Fall. When this season rolled around, my first outing was OK.
“But I didn’t have a good outing in my second start against Stephen F. Austin (4 earned runs in 7 innings as he allowed 10 hits). I just couldn’t locate anything.
“From my next outing on, everything has clicked.”
Petree couldn’t overemphasize how important catcher Luke Voit has been to his success this season.
“He calls virtually all pitches during games. Luke and I think exactly alike during games. Pitching is like a chess game, and I am usually thinking 3-4 pitches ahead just as Luke does.”
Petree said that he tries to study every batter as they step into the batter’s box.
“If a batter stands away from the plate, it usually means he can’t hit inside pitches well. I notice if hitters are out on their front foot prematurely and things like this. It is important to study hitters as much as possible.
“The key to me has been getting ahead of hitters. Then I can throw exactly what I want versus what they want. I have different pitching combinations I use for lefty batters and righthanders. I also utilize different sequences when I am ahead 0-2 in counts compared to being down in the count 2-0.”
Petree said that he has never been able to light up a radar gun with a 90-plus mph fastball.
“But I have always had fairly good control my entire life. If you aren’t able to throw with high velocity, you must spot it where you want.
“The key is knowing your pitches and how much movement they have on any given day. So you must be a master of adjustment during games. It is important for me to gauge how far a pitch might miss and adjust accordingly when you throw pitches in or out to hitters. Then if you miss, it won’t hurt you too badly.”
Petree always asks hitters on his team if he is falling into any tendencies in certain counts.
“If our hitters don’t know what’s coming, then opponents won’t either. It’s good to do this on a regular basis.”
CB Players Of The Year
2012: RHP Nick Petree, Missouri St.
2011: RHP Trevor Bauer, UCLA
2010: LHP Chris Sale, Florida Gulf Coast
2009: P Stephen Strasburg, San Diego St.
2008: C Buster Posey, Florida St.
2007: LHP David Price, Vanderbilt
2B Tony Thomas, Florida St.
2006: RHP Wes Roemer, Cal. St. Fullerton
OF Kellen Kulbacki, James Madison
2005: OF Shane Robinson, Florida St.
2004: RHP Jered Weaver, Long Beach St.
2003: 2B Rickie Weeks, Southern
2002: SS Khalil Greene, Clemson
2001: RHP Mark Prior, Southern California
2000: RHP Kip Bouknight, South Carolina
1999: UT Jason Jennings, Baylor
1998: OF Kevin Mench, Delaware
1997: OF J.D. Drew, Florida St.
1996: RHP Kris Benson, Clemson
1995: 1B/P Todd Helton, Tennessee
OF/P Mark Kotsay, Cal. St. Fullerton
1994: P/1B Ryan Jackson, Duke
1993: UT Brooks Kieschnick, Texas
1992: P Lloyd Peever, Louisiana St.
1991: P Bobby Jones, Fresno St.
1990: OF Mike Kelly, Arizona St.
1989: P Ben McDonald, Louisiana St.
UT Scott Bryant, Texas
1988: P Andy Benes, Evansville
1987: 3B Robin Ventura, Oklahoma St.
1B Marteese Robinson, Seton Hall
1986: P Greg Swindell, Texas
1985: OF Pete Incaviglia, Oklahoma St.
1984: OF Oddibe McDowell, Arizona St.