EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — In Anthony Andres’s debut game with the Northwoods League as a relief pitcher, the first pitch he threw was blasted for a home run.
During that appearance on June 28, he gave up three runs on five hits in just .2 innings of work at Wisconsin Rapids
That could’ve been a sign of things to come for the incoming senior at Northern Illinois, but Andres wasn’t about to make that his reputation. Instead, the slip-up motivated him and, by the time the Eau Claire Express season ended Sunday, Andres could count his summer a success.
Andres, a native of Western Springs who graduated from St. Rita, threw 26 consecutive scoreless innings for the Express, which team officials believe is a team record. The relief pitcher worked 32 innings this season and finished the summer with an ERA of 2.53 (nine earned runs on 22 hits and 14 walks).
“After my first outing I wasn’t really feeling good,” Andres said. “But then I focused and told myself I could pitch against anyone in the league and that built my confidence up. Once I got a few innings under my belt of not giving up any runs, it just kind of became a habit and I kept doing it over and over again.”
The left-hander went from July 1 to Aug. 2 without allowing a run to cross the plate. Andres appeared in 12 games during that stretch and pitched more than two innings five different times, including 4.1 innings and picking up the win against Battle Creek on July 15.
So what was it that made Andres, 21, so successful this summer?
He gets batters to hit ground balls.
After that first home run, Andres allowed just five more extra-base hits this season. He also finished with 18 strikeouts, an average of just over one per outing.
But the aspect of Andres’ game that stood out most to his coaches and teammates was the way he made base runners uneasy. He allowed just two stolen bases.
“His pickoff move was unlike any I had seen before,” Express teammate Taylor Duree said. “That was a huge plus for us, obviously, when he was on the mound because it eliminated base running. I think that was the biggest reason he was as good as he was for us.”
Andres proved he knew how to get hitters out from the get-go. His teammates and coaches watched his comfort on the mound increase with every outing.
It was that confidence, the rest of the pitching corps observed, that allowed Andres to come out of the bullpen and befuddle batters.
“I think it helps dramatically because it makes you believe that you can get anybody out at any time in your career,” said Brandon Jackson, a fellow Express pitcher and friend of Andres’s. “A streak like he had gives you so much confidence to go out there and pitch like you know you can. And that’s exactly what he did this summer.”