CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Chase Pickering is comfortable enough in the facts to joke about it now.
There was a time, not so long ago, that the former Nitro High School star pitcher's inability to throw strikes and lack of control wasn't funny.
"It's awful, because you try so hard," said Pickering, who is nearing the end of a whirlwind college baseball career that's concluding on an uptick. "It's not like you're trying to hit a corner, or trying to hit a knee, it's just trying to hit between the chest and the knees. It was a battle every time."
That battle now belongs to the
West Virginia Conference hitters who face West Virginia State's savvy left-handed ace.
In eight starts this season, Pickering is 4-1 with a 1.84 earned run average, 54 strikeouts and only 16 walks in 44 innings pitched. In two seasons under veteran Coach Cal Bailey at State, Pickering owns a 10-2 record with 112 strikeouts and 33 walks in 941/3 innings.
Surprisingly, his solid 2011 season was with two pitches - a fastball and a changeup.
"I might have thrown two curveballs a game, and they weren't even close (to the strike zone)," he said.
What's most impressive is his ratio of walks and innings pitched, compared to his first two seasons in NCAA Division I at West Virginia.
As a freshman under WVU Coach Greg Van Zant, Pickering had a 3-2 record with 22 strikeouts, 18 walks and a 6.29 ERA in 24 1/3 innings. It got worse as a sophomore when his innings (19 2/3) and strikeouts (15) went down, and his walks (18) and earned run average (11.44) went up.
He couldn't get out of Morgantown fast enough, and into the helpful hands of Bailey, who pitched in the Pittsburgh Pirates' farm system four decades ago.
The lanky lefty who didn't know if he was going to throw the ball in the dirt, into somebody's back or somewhere out of the strike zone, immediately received much-needed assistance.
"Cal broke it down for me," Pickering said. "From the starting step, and through the motion, he simplified everything from each part of the windup.
"My mechanics are so much better. Cal always watches me throw and summarizes everything."