T yus Adkins was expected to move from spot relief to a starting role as a pitcher this season for West High. But realistically he wasn’t expected to emerge as the team’s top starter and one of the best in Class 4A.
Adkins, a junior, won his first nine decisions, finished 9-1 with a 1.62 ERA, had nearly a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and was indeed one of the best pitchers in the big-school class. He is the Press-Citizen’s baseball pitcher of the year for the 2013 season.
As a sophomore he appeared in 11 games, starting four, and had a 3-1 record with a 3.53 ERA. He had 36 strikeouts in 332⁄3 innings pitched and walked 14. Opponents hit .248 off him.
Those are pretty impressive statistics for a sophomore at the Class 4A level, but he made a big jump this season and it began last fall.
“He works as hard as anybody in the offseason,” assistant coach Tom Cronk said. “He plays Perfect Game in the fall, and then he’s in the weight room in the winter and into the spring. And then he’s throwing. He’s a gym rat for a baseball guy. He’s throwing all the time.”
Adkins worked with his throwing coach, Tim Fangman, knowing that the team needed him to make a jump his junior season. That work helped him gain confidence to move into the starter’s role.
“Physically, he went from a sophomore to a junior, so he just was physically better able to deal with it than he was a year ago,” West coach Charlie Stumpff said. “He was much more consistent with his stuff. His fastball last year would fluctuate. His fastball would dip down to mid-to-upper 70s (mph). This year he was consistent in the low 80s. That makes a big difference.”
Adkins also had three solid pitches on which he could rely: fastball, curve and change. He had good command of all three, something that wasn’t always there a year ago, and he works hard to get ahead in the count.
“He just really stepped up,” Cronk added. “(As a sophomore) he pitched some in different roles; he started some games, pitched some games in relief last year. Came in and we thought he’d be our No. 2. But every time we put him out there he kept getting better and better all year long. It starts with him being a strike machine.”
Adkins is a year-round baseball player, although he played football, basketball and ran track in junior high. He was smitten with the game when he was as young as 3, chasing a ball around with his dad.
“My mom always tells me how she bought me all these toys, but I always went back to throwing a baseball around the house,” Adkins said. “It was tough (to give up the other sports) but I knew that in all reality if I had a future in any sport it was going to be baseball.”
He also is an accomplished third baseman and a hitter of note. He hit .326 with 16 extra-base hits and 24 RBIs.
“He’s a really good third baseman, and he takes that to the mound,” Stumpff said. “He fields his position so well. So all the bunts, all the little comebackers that sometimes can bother some people, he takes care of that.”
Adkins also has the mental and emotional makeup to take the ball and be the center of attention.
“He’s definitely a gamer,” Stumpff said. “He’s a tough kid out there pitching. He has all the intangibles. When he got in a tough situation he’d make a big pitch. The (Cedar Rapids) Jefferson game where we kind of botched the ball, they had guys at second and third and he needed a strikeout and he was able to do that. He will rise up and get that strikeout when he needs it, and yet his strikeout numbers aren’t crazy high.”
Adkins will provide a great deal of comfort to his coaches when he returns for his senior year.
“If he comes back healthy, you know what you’re going to get: You’ve got that anchor,” Stumpff said. “He should be really good next year. He’s going to work at it. He’s a baseball junkie.”
Adkins said he exceeded his own expectations this year and accordingly will have higher expectations next season. He eventually wants to play college ball.
“I think he has a chance,” Stumpff said. “He’s getting better physically and nobody has a bigger passion for the game than him.”