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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Unexpected pitching trio lead baseball to a winning record

Texas+State+sophomore+right-handed+pitcher+Sam+Hall+%2836%29+throws+the+ball+during+the+game+against+Louisiana-Lafayette%2C+Friday%2C+March+29%2C+2024%2C+at+Bobcat+Ballpark.
Mandalyn Lewallen
Texas State sophomore right-handed pitcher Sam Hall (36) throws the ball during the game against Louisiana-Lafayette, Friday, March 29, 2024, at Bobcat Ballpark.

If someone told you in January that Texas State’s (15-12, 4-4 Sun Belt Conference) weekend rotation will include redshirt junior Austin Eaton, sophomore Sam Hall and senior Drayton Brown, you may have given them a funny look. However, that is the exact trio of pitchers Head Coach Steven Trout has counted on to perform every weekend.

Many expected senior pitcher Tony Robie to play a big part of the weekend rotation this season, considering he pitched the most innings besides now-Orioles prospect Levi Wells and led regular starters in ERA with 4.33 in 2023. This hasn’t been the case, as Trout has been primarily using Robie as a weekday starter and having him come out of the bullpen on weekends.

Additionally, senior pitcher Jack Stroud and senior pitcher Peyton Zabel are other pitchers who were expected to have more of an impact on weekends, but haven’t.

Stroud started the season in the weekend rotation, making three starts before relieving in two games before suffering an in-game injury. Zabel started games in the opening series against Youngstown State University (3-23, 2-7 Horizon League) on Feb. 18 and against Washington State (16-10, 6-5 PAC-12) on Feb. 25 in the Karbach Round Rock Classic before being pushed to a bullpen/weekday-starter role.

Even though the current makeup of the weekend rotation is surprising, Trout set it this way for a reason. Here are the current weekend starting pitchers and a deep dive into why they earned their roles:

 

Austin Eaton

Eaton transferred to Texas State from Navarro Community College this season. In three seasons with the Bulldogs, Eaton starred as a hitter and didn’t pitch until his final season, in which he posted an impressive 2.12 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 68 innings.

Eaton is the only Bobcat pitcher who has started a game every weekend this season. He has shown the world he deserves to be a Division One player, posting a 3.94 ERA and a 24/12 strikeout/walk ratio in 32 innings.

Eaton earned the victory in the Bobcat’s first conference game of the season, allowing one run in seven innings against Appalachian State University (16-8, 4-4 Sun Belt Conference) on Mar. 15. Trout said it was Eaton’s best game in a Bobcat uniform.

“[Eaton] was just pounding the strike zone, and he found his slider again,” Trout said. “I thought the last couple outings he hadn’t really had his dominant slider like he had in the fall and [last] spring, so they went back to work on it, and tonight he had it.”

 

Sam Hall

Hall transferred to Texas State from Panola College this season. In one season with the Ponies, Hall posted a 3.95 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 57 innings. In 2024, Hall has a 4.71 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 28 ⅔ innings.

Trout clearly has confidence in Hall, as his first start on the mound came against the defending national champions, Louisiana State University (20-8, 2-6 SEC West) on March 3. Hall struggled against the Tigers but bounced back with three straight starts in which he allowed only three runs in 19 ⅔ innings, including a complete game against James Madison University (16-11, 3-5 Sun Belt Conference) on March 23.

“They were getting out early in the counts, so I didn’t feel like I had to do too much,” Hall said after his complete game shutout against James Madison. “Not easy, but I got the job done.”

Hall most recently had a rough outing on Mar. 29 against a very tough Louisiana-Lafayette (19-8, 7-1 Sun Belt Conference) offense, but the 20-year-old right-hander has shown promise regardless.

 

Drayton Brown

Brown is a transfer pitcher who seemingly came out of nowhere and has made an immediate positive impact on the team. In three seasons with Northwestern State University, Brown posted a 4.41 ERA with 179 strikeouts and a .221 batting average against, good enough to earn a spot on the Bobcats.

Brown started the season as a bullpen arm for Texas State but impressed to the point of snatching the final weekend rotation spot. Although he has a shorter leash compared to other starting pitchers on the roster, Brown has turned heads with his performance this season, posting a 3.18 ERA in 17 innings, highlighted by a strong start against Sam Houston State (17-11, 3-5 Conference USA) on March 10 in which he allowed two runs in five innings.

“[Brown] throws strikes [and] mixes speeds,” Trout said. “[He] keeps [opposing batters] off balance and keeps you in the game.”

In an up-and-down season for Texas State, these three starting pitchers have been a bright spot on the team, leading them to a winning record. Trout will most likely keep riding with the Eaton, Hall, and Brown trio, with Robie, Zabel, Stroud and others available to start if needed.

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