Potts surprises himself, coach with 4-1 start

April 18, 2004|JILL ERWIN

Jeremy Potts certainly didn't expect this, and neither did his coach.

The Danville senior has started the season 4-1 as a pitcher and batting .367 at the plate. Not bad for a player who had never pitched in a varsity, or junior varsity, game before.

Potts threw a few innings last summer, then a few more in fall leagues. But when Danville freshman pitcher Rich Witten had to miss the beginning of the season with mononucleosis, Potts was more than willing to help out on the mound.

"We're short on pitchers anyway," Potts said. "I was ready for it. I knew, as a senior, I had to take some leadership. (Danville) Coach (Paul) Morse and his dad worked with me a lot to get me to where I could pitch and look like a pitcher."


He's done a bang-up job in impersonating an experienced pitcher. Potts won his first two games in relief, but his most recent two wins came as a starter. He has pitched 18 innings and given up just one earned run, an earned run average of 0.39. He's given up 18 hits, and struck out 18 while allowing only five walks.

Morse said he's been impressed not only with Potts' attitude, but also his mechanics.

"His big strength is that he throws strikes," Morse said. "His fastball moves. He throws mid- to upper-70s, but it really moves. He has a good sinking fastball and we've been working on his curveball. He throws a little split-finger that is keeping hitters off-balance. If you can throw more than one or two pitches for strikes, you're going to be successful."

The success has been more than Potts could have hoped for. When he decided to join the pitching staff, he didn't expect those kinds of numbers.

He said his body is still adjusting to the change.

"My first complete game was 101 pitches in seven innings," Potts said. "I never felt it that day. I felt it the next day, though."

Shortstop is his natural position

Potts' natural position is shortstop, where he's started for three years, and he said that's where he prefers to play. With Witten's return to the rotation, Potts will most likely see more time at shortstop than on the mound, but he will still see relief action.

Morse said having Potts step in when the Admirals needed him most showed his character.

"When we started practice, he really worked his tail off," Morse said. "We were blessed to have an upperclassman be able to come in as a big leader on our team and go out there with some confidence."

Potts also has confidence in his offense. He's batting .367 with an on-base percentage of .389. He has seven extra base hits, seven runs batted-in and five stolen bases.

Those seven extra base hits are more than Potts had all of last season, and that could be because of the estimated 25 pounds Potts has added over the offseason while working out at the Morse Baseball Academy.

"I hit the weights in the offseason and worked out with Coach," Potts said. "I went to all the conditioning and strength drills down at the academy, so that helped me out in the long run."

Admirals play Lexington Christian Thursday

Potts said the Admirals have plenty of goals this season. First up is to beat Lexington Christian in the All "A" Classic Sectional Thursday at Admiral Field, earning a trip to Lexington to compete in the All "A" state at Applebee's Park.

After that, Danville wants to change its recent fortunes at the 45th District Tournament.

"I want to make it to regionals because the past two years we've gotten beat out in the first round of districts," Potts said. "I'm glad we have a chance to go back to Applebee's, but our main team goal is to get past district and reach regionals."

Beyond that, Potts has started to limit his college choices. He said his first choice is Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., but that he's had contact with several in-state schools as well.

Morse said regardless of where he goes, Potts will bring a tenacity to the lineup.

"He's one of those players that you hate to play against, but you love to have on your team," Morse said. "He's pesky. At the plate, you think he can't hit the ball and so you move your outfielders in, but he hits it over their head. You get two strikes on him, thinking you'll strike him out, but before you know it it's back to a full count and he works a walk and steals a base. He can bunt for base hits. He does a lot of things well."

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