This is the summer Brad Jesernig reinvented himself as a pitcher.
Following the advice of his pitching coach at Pepperdine, Jesernig, an all-league performer when he was at Capital High School, dropped to a sidearm motion while throwing in a summer league in New York.
And instead of losing speed on his fastball, which is typically what happens to pitchers dropping down on their delivery, Jesernig actually added speed. His fastball was clocked at 92 mph.
“It’s just something I wanted to work on and it seemed like a good time to do it,” Jesernig said. “It felt natural.”
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Jesernig’s statistics tell a flattering story. In 15 games as a closer, he finished with a 3.14 ERA and opponents batted .206 against him while he pitched for the Saratoga Phillies of the New York Collegiate Baseball League. He was named to the all-league first team.
“Throwing sidearm seems to be harder for batters to pick up,” said Jesernig, who in June drove across the country in his pickup with his dad, Jim, to pitch in Saratoga. “I like it.”
However, Jesernig didn’t get off to a fantastic start. He blew his first save. But rather than getting bumped to middle relief, he kept his job as the closer and ended up with nine saves.
“Coaches gave me a shot and they stuck with me,” Jesernig said. “In the summer leagues, it’s harder to blow a save. If you have a lead, batters are trying to be heroes and they’re taking big swings, swings they don’t usually take.”
Jesernig dropped his curveball because it was hard to throw sidearm, but he still succeeded despite throwing just two pitches – a fastball and a slider. He said he’ll try to add a change-up or the curve before next season starts.
“I made sure the two pitches were quality pitches each time,” Jesernig said.
Over the summer, Jesernig had a free membership to a gym in Saratoga and he hit the weight room hard every day, adding to his strength and speed to his fastball. He’d work out and then go straight to games.
“When it comes to mechanics, it was me,” Jesernig said. “It felt right.”
It showed. After he reshirted in 2008 at Pepperdine, Jesernig pitched 112/3 innings in seven relief appearances this spring as a freshman. Opponents batted .244 and he had a 6.94 ERA with 11 strikeouts.
His summer league performance was a vast improvement.
Jesernig attributes part of his success to something not baseball related.
“With what my teammates said about their host families, I was fortunate. I had a good host family,” Jesernig said. “One guy had kind of a weird host family.”
Jesernig is getting used to summers away from home. Last summer, he played in Hawaii.
Adam Conley had a summer he won’t likely forget soon.
The Olympia grad, who’ll be a sophomore at Washington State University, didn’t give up an earned run while pitching in the New England Collegiate Baseball League.
He gave up one unearned run in 34 innings pitched with the Keene (N.H.) Swampbats. He finished the regular season 2-0, but the unearned run he allowed in the first inning of a 5-4 playoff loss handed him the defeat.
THROWING AND RUNNING
Jesse Elvrom, a Yelm graduate who placed third at the state decathlon meet in June, has accepted a track scholarship to Sacramento State.
He’ll compete in the decathlon and javelin.
Yelm coach Mike Strong said Elvrom has a bright future in both events but believes Elvrom has a bigger upside with the javelin.
“He’s plenty athletic,” Strong said. “He has real good prospects in whatever he does. He’ll have to figure it out on what he does. He could be in the top five in the country in the javelin.”
Gail Wood: 360-754-5443