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For Erskine-bound Bowers, the less pitches the better

Posted: April 8, 2014 11:17 a.m.
Updated: April 9, 2014 5:00 a.m.

In this age of baseball in which pitchers are always looking to add another pitch to their repertoire, Zac Bowers is in the reduction mode.
Bowers, a senior right-hander at Lugoff-Elgin, cemented thecommitment to Erskine College, which he made last summer, by signing a National Letter of Intent with the Flying Fleet last Wednesday.
“It’s been a pretty long wait but it’s all been worth it, in the long run,” Bowers said of the time between his pledge and finally signing with Kevin Nichols’ program.
The 6-foot Bowers, who was scheduled to start the Demons’ Tuesday night game with Richland Northeast, took a 3-2 record into that contest along with one save. In 36 innings of work for Randy Stokes’ troops this season, Bowers has fanned 44 batters, allowed 21 hits and has pitched to a 1.56 earned run average.
Those numbers come after a junior campaign in which Bowers won four of his last five decisions to finish with a 4-4 record. He followed that by winning four of his five decisions for the Kershaw County Post 17 American legion team last summer, closing with a 2-0, nine-strikeout, three-hitter against a Murrell’s Inlet team which advanced to the state tournament.
Armed with an arsenal of pitches including a two-seam and four-seam fastball, a slider which acts like a curveball, a 12-to-6 curveball and a changeup, Bowers said he will probably stop throwing one of those once he arrives on the Due West campus.
“When I get to Erskine,” he said, “I probably won’t throw a curveball anymore. I’ll probably stick with my slider because that’s the one I’m pretty good at throwing.”
Stokes said depending on whether his four-year varsity performer is a starter or works out of the bullpen for Nichols will help decide which pitches Bowers needs to throw.
“It all comes down to what his role will be on the team,” said Stokes a former pitcher at Coastal Carolina and with the Detroit Tigers’ organization. “If you’re a closer or, a late-inning guy, you can get away with two or three pitches. If you’re a starter, you may need to have four. I think that’s still to be determined with Zac.
“Having fewer pitches may be good for him; maybe he wants to concentrate on one more than the other. There’s always that transition in going from a high school to a college hitter and learning how to pitch to those guys. He’ll learn a lot in the first couple of weeks that he’s there about what kind of changes he’ll have to make.”
Should Bowers be used as a starter, which is what the Erskine told him he will be when he gets on campus, he will need four pitches as batters will see him on more than one occasion in a game. For a closer, two pitches are sometimes enough when you face a batter just once per game.
The Zac Bowers who signed with Erskine is not the same person, physically, as the one whom Nichols recruited. Time spent in the weight room in the off season has allowed Bowers to add muscle to his frame and also, to added more velocity to a fastball which had been timed at 87 miles per hour last summer.
“Some of the changes I have made are getting stronger, hitting my spots and locating all of my pitches,” Bowers said of his physical maturation process since last season.
Aside from baseball, Bowers said when making his decision on a school, he had his eyes wide-open. In spite of hearing pitches from some larger schools, including at least one Division I program, he felt comfortable in signing with Nichols and the NCAA Division II Flying Fleet.
“They have a good baseball program, but the big picture is that the school is very good and they have small class sizes … I like that,” Bowers said when asked his reasoning for choosing Erskine
“Coach Nichols is a straight-forward guy. He’s going to make sure that you get all your work done and that you go to class. He’s going to be there for you when you need him.”
Stokes said Nichols is getting a young man in Bowers who is everything a coach wants in a player. He also said Bowers has the drive to be a success at the next level.
“Zac is a quality kid with a good head on his shoulders,” said the L-E boss. “He’s pleasant to be around. He comes to practice and games with a smile on his face. We’re going to miss him, a lot.
“He’s going to a program where the kids have to show a lot of dedication and commitment.  I think it’s going to be good for him and it will be something that he’ll enjoy because of the discipline that he needs to have, the commitment it’s going to take and the structure of being a college baseball player.
“I think he’s going to fit right into that role at that level for Erskine.”
As one of four signed members of the 2014 Flying Fleet recruiting class, Bowers said he knows the other three who will join him come the fall. That, he said, will help ease his transition into college and, the college game in which things will be different from high school baseball.
“I think the biggest change will be the hitters that I will face,” Bowers said. “In high school, the hitters are good, but they’re not going to be like guys you see in college.”
Given what he has seen in how Zac Bowers has developed since coming to his program as an eighth-grader, Stokes believes his team’s ace should make a smooth transition to college life as well as on the baseball diamond.
“There’s always a transition when you move to a new level, especially moving from high school to college,” Stokes said. “You have to make adjustments and baseball’s a game of adjustments. I think Zac will be fine with it.”

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