#TGW: Cole Mining

Cole Pitts
May 13, 2015

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

Solace can be hard to find and sometimes ring hollow following a loss to a rival.

But within every loss there is always something positive to take away.

Following Georgia Tech's 6-0 loss to Georgia Tuesday night in the Annual Kauffman Tire Spring Classic for Kids played at Turner Field the nugget to be taken away is the outing of redshirt junior right-hander Cole Pitts.

THWG? Sure. But Pitts could add the rallying cry THWS -- To Hell With Stats.

Tuesday's stat line was cruel as stat lines can often be, as Pitts left Turner Field with a loss, dropping him to 0-6, having allowed four runs, all earned, on seven hits in six innings. Statisticians say that doesn't qualify as a quality start (6.0 innings pitched, three-or-fewer runs allowed).

Head coach Danny Hall and assistant coach Jason Howell say differently.

"I honestly felt it's the best that he's thrown," said Hall. "Pitts commanded most of his stuff pretty well tonight and that's very encouraging. He made a bad pitch on [Georgia first baseman Daniel Nichols, which is going to happen from time to time but I felt other than that he commanded everything real well."

"It's the best he's thrown in a while," agreed Howell. "He had a chance to get extended a little bit, which we need out of him and what he needs as well. It's the best all of his stuff has looked all working together. He was able to go in and out with his fastball and locate change-up from breaking ball. He just kind of left the one pitch up and the guy also had to hit it, too."

The pitch he left up was a 1-1 fastball to Nichols, who took it out to right-center for a three-run homer -- Nichols finished 3-for-4, with the homer and five RBIs. Unfortunately, the pitch came one batter after Pitts issued his only walk of the game.

The walk, to winning pitcher/DH Jared Walsh, who was 2-for-4, on a 3-2 pitch, bothered Hall more than the 1-1 pitch.

"Walks have been a killer for us all year," said Hall, who saw six Jacket pitchers allow five walks, while striking out five on the night. "Our bullpen, other than [Trevor] Craport, continued to walk some guys. It just makes it easy for teams to score. I had no problem with Pitts."

The midweek start, his first start since being replaced as Saturday starter, following the May 2 loss to Presbyterian, was another positive in Pitts' return from Tommy John surgery. Pitts underwent the operation following an injury to his elbow in the third inning against Wake Forest on March 8, 2014, that ruined a junior season that was off to a superb start look -- he'd pitched at least five innings in each of this first three starts, allowing three earned runs, with a 13-4 strikeouts:walks ratio.

Tuesday night at Turner Field may have been a foundation start for Pitts, whose return was one of the feel-good stories heading into 2015. The six innings pitched marked his longest start since March 17, 2013, when he went 6 ⅔ innings against Boston College in a 9-2 victory at Russ Chandler Stadium. The 52 strikes in 80 pitches (65.0 percent) were his second-best totals for the season.

"Usually, when you look at T.J., they always say 10-12 months you're back but really 16 months is when you start to see that real big improvement," said Howell. "Now that we're getting more toward that end of things I think it's starting to look a lot better for him."

While the return to the Cole Pitts of 2014, or even the one of 2012, when, as a freshman, he was a part of the last Yellow Jackets team to host a Regional, would be welcome, Howell is fine with the version of Pitts he's seen in side sessions throughout 2015.

"We've just kind of stayed consistent, just get him some confidence and repeat his delivery and really just take what he's doing in the bullpens out onto the game mound," said Howell. "He's still recovering from an injury so he's trying to work through that in game situations, which sometimes is tough. You make a pitch and you're trying to fix that pitch in a game as opposed to just trusting it. I think that's been a little bit more where he's been is just having to trust his stuff once he's out there with actual hitters in the box."

Even though there is only one series remaining, at Miami beginning on Thursday, Hall believes there is still time for Pitts to be a factor for the Jackets in postseason play.

"I'm hoping if we do get in there and we can stay in there long enough that he'll get another start," Hall said. "It's encouraging if we get into postseason play that he had a good start here tonight. I hope he uses it in the right way and feels good about himself.

"Cole has won a lot of games for us throughout his career," he added. "Maybe he's saving his best for last."