Anyone facing the Metter pitching staff knows that they are in for a long day, but the at-bats can be rather short when facing Tiger ace Pete Nagel.
The season is over one month old, yet opposing teams are still looking for their first earned run off of Nagel.
“Pete has been doing a great job all season for us,” says Metter pitching coach and former Georgia Southern standout Aaron Eubanks. “We know that he’s going to give us a good chance to win every time we send him out there, and that’s about all you can ask for.”
Armed with great speed and late movement on his pitches, Nagel is a power pitcher in every sense of the word. Through 25 innings this season, Nagel has racked up 47 strikeouts – he has fanned almost half of the batters who have dug in against him - and is a no-hit threat every time he takes the mound.
“I’m always thinking about attacking the hitter,” said Nagel. “I want to get ahead in the count. If I can do that, I feel like I can keep batters off balance, and then I just challenge them and try to throw it right by them.”
Nagel is far from the only steady arm on the staff.
Hunter Dixon and Trace Padget have teamed with Nagel to form one of the best rotations in the area, with the three earning credit for all eight Metter wins on the season.
“Our entire staff has been doing a great job this season,” said Eubanks. “They all buy into the philosophy of going after hitters. We want every batter on base or back in the dugout in three pitches or less. It keeps hitters from being too selective and ensures that our pitchers can go deep into games.”
The key to Nagel’s success has been his aggressiveness. All of the Tigers’ pitchers have a very aggressive approach on the mound, focusing on getting ahead in counts and contributing greatly to the 135 total strikeouts for the team on the season.
“The biggest pitch for any pitcher is the first one,” said Eubanks. “Pete is right around 70 percent on the year for first-pitch strikes. It’s something that we really preach to all of our pitchers. When you can start off with a strike, you can really control the at-bat.”
The great pitching of Nagel and company also serves to take a lot of burden off of the offense.
Metter has been less than prodigious at the plate this season, but with the pitching staff combining for a collective ERA of just 2.17 so far, the offense knows that just a few runs will likely be enough to get a win on any given night.
“I’m not thinking about the offensive side when I’m pitching,” said Nagel. “Anytime that me or (Dixon or Padgett) is out there, we’re just focused on getting outs. We know that if we can take care of business, everything else will work out.”
“It really takes a lot of pressure off of the offense,” said Eubanks. “It keeps us from pressing at the plate, and we never feel like we have to score 10 runs to win a game. It keeps our hitters very relaxed knowing that we have that kind of consistency on the mound.”
With all of his success this season, it is easy to forget that Nagel still has another year to go in his high school career. Despite the blazing fastball, escalating strikeout totals and non-existent ERA, Nagel is always focused on improving his performances on the mound.
“Right now, I’m trying to improve my velocity,” said Nagel. “I think that I can throw it a little harder than I’m doing right now. Coach Eubanks has really helped me to improve this season, and hopefully I can take it to the next level someday.”