Stanford Spotlight - J.D. Willcox
May 1, 2001
'That's not really an easy question because baseball here at Stanford has never been a personal thing for me,' responded J.D. Willcox when asked how satisfying his breakthrough year at Stanford has been.
Willcox was referring to the fact that the Cardinal has struggled to a 3-5 record over the past eight games after having been the nation's top team for six consecutive weeks and jumping out to a 31-7 mark. Willcox has not had a chance to make much of a difference in those past eight games, appearing only twice during the stretch. Personally, things are going great for Willcox. In his two appearances during stretch, he has thrown three hitless innings.
For the season, Willcox has emerged as Stanford's leader out of the bullpen with a 2-0 record, three saves and an 0.47 ERA. He has given up just one earned run all season in 12 appearances and 19.1 innings of work. He has even earned the nickname 'Lights Out' from teammate Ryan Garko.
'He just came up to me one day and said you need a nickname,' laughed Willcox. 'It's something that you hope you can live up to.'
Willcox's breakthrough year didn't exactly start the way he had hoped after an excellent year last summer with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod League (4-2, 3.76). Willcox didn't even get his first taste of action in 2001 until the Cardinal was already 16 games into the campaign.
Once he finally got his chance, he immediately showed that he would develop into one of the Cardinal's most reliable relievers this season.
Willcox earned his first save of the season in that first appearance versus Nevada on February 27, retiring both batters he faced in the top of the ninth inning to help the Cardinal stave off a Wolf Pack comeback in an 8-6 win. Willcox found himself on the mound again three games later in the final game of a non-conference series versus California. He picked up his first victory of the year with four innings of one-hit pitching in a game the Cardinal eventually won with a dramatic walk-off solo homer by Chris O'Riordan in the bottom of the 10th. He picked up his second straight win four days later against USC by pitching the final 1.2 innings of another dramatic Cardinal win, a 9-5 victory in 10 innings that ended when Andy Topham hit a walk-off grandslam homer in the bottom of the 10th.
Willcox did not give up a run in his first eight appearances of the season before finally surrendering a single run at Nevada in a wild 18-13 Cardinal win. He has been 'lights out' since with four more scoreless appearances.
Willcox is quick to point out the lessons he has learned in the last two year that have made him more successful in 2001.
'Not pitching last year did help me in a way,' relayed Willcox. 'Now, I understand how valuable every opportunity is when you go out there. I know that every time I'm out on the mound, there are 10 other guys that wish they were out there, so I have to make the most of it every time.
Still, he is not satisfied by his personal success.
'I was probably a little bit frustrated that I hadn't even warmed up in the first 16 games,' admitted Willcox. 'But, I think I was happier then than I am now that we have been struggling as a team a little bit.'
Willcox emphasizes that there is a special sense of team among the entire Cardinal club.
'The team attitude this year has been outstanding,' said Willcox. 'From the first day, we've been really unified.'
by Kyle McRae
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