USM’s Winston doing well in summer ballPublished 12:01am Wednesday, July 24, 2013
LAFAYETTE, La. — Summer ball was a chance for Jake Winston to put his rough freshman year at Southern Mississippi into the rearview mirror.
And the Trinity Episcopal Day School alumnus appears to have made the most of that opportunity.
Winston is currently tied for second place with most wins in the Texas Collegiate League at five, and his earned-run average of 2.22 ranks him fifth in the league. He has pitched 52.2 innings for the Acadiana Cane Cutters and has tallied 38 strikeouts.
Throwing strikes has been the biggest difference between summer ball and what happened at USM this past spring, where Winston struggled in his freshman season, posting a 5.40 ERA in 15 innings.
“I’m relaxed this summer, and I’m just pounding the zone,” Winston said. “I’m throwing a lot of strikes and getting ground balls, and that’s what’s making me successful right now.”
Though he said he’s happy to be ranked in a couple of pitching categories, Winston said neither he nor his coaches are focused on the numbers right now.
“Stats don’t really bother me that much,” Winston said. “I’m happy to be one of the top pitchers this year, but I’m here just trying to win and get my innings in. I don’t think stats really matter to my coaches either. They want me to be successful, but being in the top five is not really a big deal right now.”
Though there are a number of rising sophomores in the collegiate league, Winston said he’s mostly been facing juniors and seniors to-be. But he said there hasn’t really been a difference in hitters’ approaches at the plate between the younger and older guys.
“It’s summer ball, so this is not taken nearly as serious as school ball,” Winston said. “The hitters aren’t here to take pitches — they’re swinging the balls. There’s really not any kind of approach that they have.”
Winston said having confidence on the mound has made a big difference, and it’s something he’s shared with USM pitching coach Michael Federico.
“He’s really happy with what I’m doing, and he asked me what the difference (in my performance) was, and I told him, ‘Look, I don’t know, but I feel really relaxed,’” Winston said. “There are no worries of if anything goes wrong. The game has slowed down a bit, which will help me going into my sophomore season.”
Summer ball is often used by pitchers to work on certain pitches, and Winston said he has been trying to get a better feel of his changeup, though he stressed he’s throwing all of his pitches.
“I’m not just throwing it so much that I’m forgetting everything else,” Winston said. “I’m still trying to get guys out, but whenever I have the opportunity to try to mix one in there, I do.”
The playoffs begin in early August for the Texas Collegiate League, but Winston said he’s having his wisdom teeth removed July 31. He said he hopes to get back into a game by the time the playoffs start.