Travis Eckert ready for increased role

Catcher Logan Ice had a message for his battery mate, Travis Eckert in the bullpen before Oregon State and Washington clashed for Pac-12 series last week.

“You’re not Drew Rasmussen,” said the junior captain to Eckert. “You never will be.”

It what could be construed as an insult, by comparing Eckert to the team’s former ace who recently went down with a torn ulnar collateral ligament, requiring season-ending Tommy John surgery.

Instead, the message was used to calm down and instill confidence in the senior pitcher who would be taking over Rasmussen’s Friday slot in the weekend rotation.

“He’s got Friday night stuff,” said Ice. “Sometimes I think he fools himself and tries to tell himself he needs to be something that he’s not.

“I said, ‘just be you. Throw strikes, pound the zone and you got a great defense behind you.’”

Ice’s message rang loud and clear to the Texas native.

“To me it means go out and do what you do, there’s nobody’s shoes you have to fill,” said Eckert. “Just keep doing the same thing and stick to the routine, you don’t have to step up and be anyone else.”

Eckert delivered, earning Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week for striking out a career-high nine Huskie batters, while allowing only three hits over five innings of work before tightness in his back ended his day early.

The key to his success against Washington was his ability to pinpoint all three of his pitches, a low-90’s fastball, a changeup and a slider that he can change the speeds of, while keeping the ball out of the heart of the plate — especially on two-strike counts.

“He was spotting up everything, I think fastball command sets the table for any pitcher,” said pitching coach Nate Yeskie. “We’ve had guys here who have thrown 83-85 (mph) that throw it where they want, we’ve had guys who throw 93-95 that throw it where they want. At the end of the day they had success based on being able to locate their fastball, a secondary pitch, and constantly stay ahead in the count, and stay out of the middle of the plate.

“That was the biggest thing for (Eckert), he did a great job, he just wasn’t in the middle of the plate.”

Becoming the team’s friday starter is something that Eckert has been training for since he arrived in Corvallis last fall. Despite hearing the somber news about Rasmussen, Eckert couldn’t help but be excited about being selected to replace Rasmussen.

“It means a lot that they would call my name after Drew. Coming here, signing here and being here in the fall my junior year,. I was always wanting to be the No. 1 guy,” said Eckert. “Now I am. I kind of took a step back and was like ‘wow,’ but you know, I always believed in my stuff and I have the stuff to be the No. 1 guy at a place like Oregon State.”

“I know it fuels his fire a little bit that he gets to pitch on Friday night which has been awesome for us,” said Ice. “He knows the ropes, he doesn’t do stupid stuff, he doesn’t say stupid stuff, just goes about his business the way he should go about his business.”

Eckert, and the rest of the Oregon State baseball team open their three-game nonconference series against Central Arkansas today, first pitch is schedule for 5:35 p.m.