A few weeks before the season started, ASU freshman pitcher Boyd Vander Kooi wasn’t penciling himself into a starting spot. Although many believed he would get the nod to start the season, the Mesa, Arizona native wanted to prove himself.
“I want to work towards it and try to prove myself instead of automatically thinking I’m going to start,” Vander Kooi said. “I really want to prove a point to Skip that I have the ability and the hard work to have the starting spot.”
The man he was trying to impress, ASU head coach Tracy “Skip” Smith, said that Vander Kooi had the ability to start and would “push for innings right away.”
But, as it goes with most freshman, seeing something in practice doesn’t mean that it will translate to a game when someone wearing different colors is standing in the batter’s box.
“I’m cautiously optimistic about (him pushing for inning right away) because I still haven’t seen it in a game,” Smith said on January 30. “So that’s going to shape up.”
Vander Kooi did indeed push for inning right away. He was slated as the Devils’ third starter, getting the nod in game one of Sunday’s doubleheader against Miami (Ohio), an 11-1 ASU victory.
If the freshman had nerves as he made his first career start, he didn’t show them. He looked poised and confident, delivering an outing that most would expect from a senior, or a Friday starter.
Behind early run support, Vander Kooi went 7 innings, allowing no earned runs, five hits and struck out five.
Because of the doubleheader, the mercy rule went into effect in the seventh inning after the Devils hung a five-spot. Although it’s doubtful that it’ll be scored this way, Vander Kooi technically pitched a complete game in his first career outing. Not too shabby.
The 2017 Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year was efficient, too. He threw just 83 pitches while recording three 1-2-3 innings, and two of those — the fifth and the sixth — he only needed eight and six pitches, respectively, to get out of the frame.
Vander Kooi only had to pitch one inning without the lead — the first.
In the bottom half, ASU’s bats gave a nice glimpse into how the day would go. After Hunter Bishop walked and stole second, Lyle Lin picked up from his 4-8 day on Saturday and squirted an RBI single into right. Two batters later, freshman Trevor Hauver made his first collegiate hit into an RBI single.
In the third, freshman first baseman Spencer Torkelson smoked a laser over the left field fence for his third home run in as many games. Torkelson also added a single in the seventh to get the hit fest, that ultimately caused the mercy rule, going.
The next four batters after Torkelson all got on. And the fourth, Jeremy McCuin, ended the game with an RBI single.