Confidence Guides Veteran Pitchers to Summer League Championship
HAMMOND, La. – As their fellow students prepare began a new semester Wednesday, Southeastern baseball players who participated in summer collegiate leagues are returning from locations throughout the country.
The farthest place was certainly Palmer, Alaska, where pitchers Payton Robinson and Josh Green played for the 2017 league champion Mat-Su Miners. The veteran Lions immediately found a home with their new team, despite being more than 4,000 miles away from Hammond.
“It was a really close-knit bunch for only being there two months,” Green said. “When I first got there, I was immediately welcomed. There was never any hesitation about whether or not I was a part of something.”
Since Robinson and Green were coming off Southeastern’s appearance in the Baton Rouge Regional, the Miners’ coaching staff immediately utilized their ability to excel in high-pressure situations.
Take, for example, the final game of the Alaska Baseball League Championship. The Miners had suffered a shutout loss to the Anchorage Bucs in the opening game of the best-of-3 series, placing them on the brink of elimination. Robinson, who started the championship game, surrendered just three hits and struck out four batters across 5 innings, earning the win and giving Mat-Su its second consecutive championship. Green, for his part, pitched the final two innings, allowing one hit and no earned runs.
“I feel like we didn’t question that we would [win],” Robinson said. “We had confidence in our ability to win the next two games. We had a lot of pitching available [in the bullpen]. Definitely by the time we got to the third game, we felt really confident.”
Green, a senior from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was named the All-Alaska League closer for his work during the summer. In 17 games, he maintained a 0.00 ERA, recording 9 saves and 25 strikeouts.
“I’d put our bullpen this summer against every bullpen in the nation, because they closed the games out,” Green said. “In the seventh and eighth innings, they put the other team in a position where they knew they were done, and they just handed it over to me. It just looks pretty when you throw the ninth, but the real work is done in the seventh and eighth innings.”
Robinson was originally invited to play in the Cape Cod Baseball League, until he learned that the team had given away his roster spot. Then, the Southeastern coaches decided that the Alaska League would provide Robinson with the best opportunity to hone his skills, and Green followed when a spot opened up.
“You have to be tough to live in Alaska,” Robinson said about the most important lesson he learned. “It’s far away from everything and the weather is not ideal. You miss your family back home, so to stay focused and get the job done, it’s tough. That’s a big part of Southeastern’s program, since they preach toughness.”
Both players also represented the Miners in the Alaska Baseball League All-Star Game, which featured some of the best competition in the country. Green said it was especially inspiring to see how the people in Palmer supported their summer baseball team.
“The community there is extremely tight, and the Miners games are the only thing to do in the evenings,” he said. “We, by far, had the best crowd and the best fans there.”
The pitchers come back to Hammond with a reassurance that their skills will be able to lead the Southeastern baseball team through whatever the 2018 season brings. They will begin fall practice with polished repertoires, as well.
“We played against a lot of really good competition,” Green said. “We got to see what our stuff would do against the best hitters in the nation, and I think that’s going to give us confidence going forward.”