Averill Uses Cape Experience To His Advantage

Feb. 11, 2005

Last year, Erik Averill played in the Cape Cod Baseball League, where he found that there was a lot less partying and fewer pretty girls than depicted in 'Summer Catch,' the 2001 Freddie Prinze Jr. film.

'It was fun,' the Arizona State junior pitcher said, 'but not that fun.'

No matter, because Averill went to Massachusetts mostly to work on his pitching, and the confidence boost he got from the experience is paying dividends so far in the collegiate season.

A full-time starter for the first time as a Sun Devil, the left-hander got nationwide accolades for his most recent start, in which he struck out 14 New Mexico State batters in a shutout.

In 13 innings this year -- he debuted with a loss to Long Beach State in which he allowed three earned runs in four frames -- Averill, the reigning national pitcher of the week, has fanned 20 while walking none.

'When I was going to be a starter (in the fall), I took ownership of that,' said Averill, a spot starter and long reliever in 2004. 'I was a starter in the Cape and pitched my first complete game there.

'I really got a feel that I could go deep in a game and found out how to take care of my arm and what I need to do to stay ready between starts.'

Wood bats are used in the Cape Cod League, where top collegians are invited to play each summer. Without the protection of potent aluminum, hitters are more susceptible to pitchers challenging them inside.

Averill did that all summer, going 5-3 with a 1.70 ERA in 63 2 /3 innings for the Orleans Cardinals. Although opposing hitters are again holding metal, he has not changed his approach much.

That is due to the most important lesson he learned at Cape Cod: Good location and variety will beat hitters, no matter what they are swinging.

'He didn't go in there as a starter but emerged as one and became one of the top pitchers in the league,' Sun Devils coach Pat Murphy said. 'He had definite goals coming in, pitches he wanted to work on, and he achieved them. That shows his commitment to the game.'

Averill was primarily a starter as a freshman in 2003, going 8-2 with a 3.66 ERA. Murphy moved him to the bullpen last year because he felt that, given the makeup of the pitching staff, that was where Averill would be most valuable.

Though Averill led the team with 26 appearances, his ERA rose to 5.19.

'It was definitely a challenging role,' Averill said. 'But I threw the (third-most) innings on the team last year, so I was doing my job.'

Averill has altered his repertoire since last season, ditching his curveball in favor of a slider and relying more on his fastball. Primarily a change-up pitcher last season, he got into trouble when hitters anticipated it.

Now, Averill works off his fastball and uses the change-up as an out pitch.

Murphy said Averill 'has the mentality' for the prestigious Friday night starts for 12th-ranked ASU (4-3) when Pac-10 play begins. He has not yet assigned that role, which could also go to Jason Urquidez or Brett Bordes.

But Averill is not sweating over which day he will pitch. After accepting a reliever's role for so long, he will not get choosy about when he starts.

'All I want to do is pitch enough good innings so the team has a chance to win,' Averill said. 'That's what I worked all summer and fall for.'

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