After missing the majority of last season with an injury, Wichita State right-hander Sam Tewes is optimistic for his redshirt sophomore season.
It wasn’t easy for the 6-foot-5, 200-pound hurler to watch his team perform, while sitting out with an injury last year. But, during that time, he learned the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity because you don’t know when it could be your last.
“The hardest thing was not being able to contribute anything physically,” Tewes said of last season. “As a competitor and teammate you can always contribute with energy and intangible things, but you can’t contribute anything tangible to the team. That is probably the biggest grind I’ve ever had to go through.”
Tewes spent this past offseason getting healthy and preparing his body to sustain an entire season, while continuing to develop his pitching repertoire.
“I developed a cutter/slider last year that was a little bit different than the previous one I had thrown,” Tewes said. “That has developed into my best pitch. That is something I worked on and toyed with a lot. I’m trying to get it to be a big swing and miss pitch where I can throw it anytime I need an out.”
Tewes has a four-pitch mix, featuring a mid-90s fastball, a changeup, a curveball and a cutter. His pitching repertoire has improved during his time at Wichita State, and as a whole, he has developed into a more complete pitcher since his high school days.
“I definitely have matured and gained knowledge and a better feel,” Tewes said. “Just aspects of the game that I didn’t really know about coming out of high school in terms of pitching, such as holding runners on.
“I’ve put on a coupe miles per hour since I’ve been here, really added bite to my breaking pitches and gained feel for a changeup. Just overall command and strength of each pitch has improved in terms of confidence level and ability to show the pitch.”
Coming out of high school in 2013, Tewes was the top draft prospect from the state of Nebraska, but signability concerns caused him to slide in the MLB First-Year Player Draft. The Toronto Blue Jays ended up selecting Tewes in the 22nd round, but he declined the opportunity to go pro.
“At the time the decision I made I wasn’t going to sign unless I got a deal that was going to take away the pricelessness that college gives you,” Tewes said. “Education was a big part of it.
“Winning as a team was the biggest part for me. I’m the kind of guy that loves the comradery and the team aspect. I haven’t been in professional baseball yet, but from what I’ve heard from guys I know, is that that aspect kind of disappears.”
In the end, Tewes knew he still had room to develop. While he has faced some adversity along the way, he has grown as a pitcher in his first two seasons at Wichita State.
Back in the 2014 season when Tewes was a freshman, he made 15 starts and registered a 3.27 ERA. Then in his sophomore year, he recorded a 2.42 ERA in five starts before missing the remainder of the season with shoulder inflammation.
Now in his redshirt sophomore season, Tewes is a well-regarded 2016 draft prospect, ranking 33rd on Baseball America’s top 100 college prospects list.
Despite the draft chatter, Tewes is focused solely on the expectations he places on himself.
“Expectations that aren’t your own are kind of just noise,” Tewes said. “It’s just kind of talk. Really the only expectations I’m concerned with and live up to are the expectations I give myself and that our give to me by my teammates and coaches.
“If I don’t do what I can for my team and don’t perform the way I know I can, all of the accolades and attention doesn’t matter anyways. If I do what I’m supposed to do, everything will take care of itself.”
It hasn’t been an easy start to the 2016 season for Tewes. In three starts (14.1 innings), he has a 6.91 ERA with 18 strikeouts and seven walks, while opposing batters are hitting .254 against him.
Tewes said his recent performance is inexcusable and that he needs to slow the game down and take it pitch-by-pitch.
If Tewes can figure it out and pitch effectively and consistently the remainder of the season, he’ll be selected in the early rounds of the draft.
However, he isn’t worried about the future. Instead, he is hoping to pitch well for his team, as they try to make it back to the NCAA Tournament, after going 26-33 last season.
“We want to come to the park every day and be the best team in the stadium,” Tewes said. “That’s our goal day in and day out. Obviously, there’s the cliché goals everyone tells you about how they want to make a regional and go to Omaha. That is everyone’s goal.”
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