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Leigh dominates in fourth start as Texas State beats Bethune-Cookman

Texas State Baseball
Saturday, March 7, 2020

Before the season, Texas State head coach Steven Trout knew moving senior right-handed pitcher Zach Leigh from closer to starter would be a “big thing” for the Bobcats.

Leigh started nine games as a sophomore in 2018, achieving a 4-3 record. He thrived as a punctuator last year, earning six saves and going 3-1 while throwing for a career-low 4.41 ERA. But with the maroon and gold needing an all-new weekend rotation, Trout asked Leigh to take on the role of Texas State’s regular Friday starter.

The Victoria East graduate went to work during the offseason adding a breaking ball to his arsenal. He knew he’d need a wider mix of pitches if he had to last longer on the mound.

“I mean, there's always room to improve all aspects of the game,” Leigh said. “And I thought that was something that I could work on and worked on it all offseason and all fall, all spring and here I am. When it's used now, it's working out good.”

Leigh looked sharp in his first three starts this year, posting a 2.50 ERA and 1.06 WHIP while accumulating 22 strikeouts. But the senior put on his best performance of the season Friday night against Bethune-Cookman inside Bobcat Ballpark, shutting out the Wildcats through six innings and fanning a career-high 11 batters in a 5-0 victory.

“I was just locating my ‘on’ pitches, on and off the plate,” Leigh said. “Just, when I got to two strikes, making the best pitch possible. And it worked out tonight.”

Leigh made quick work of BCU early on, mowing down the first eight batters he saw in order before giving up his first hit in the top of the third inning. Leigh forced a ground out in the next at-bat to retire the side.

The fourth frame got a little stickier. Leigh picked up his sixth and seventh strikeout of the evening, then allowed two hits and a walk to load the bases for the visitors. The right-hander bounced back, though, going up 0-2 in the count against his next batter and striking the batter out looking.

He gave up another hit and walk while gaining another three K's in the fifth. Trout could have pulled him then. Leigh was already at 92 pitches for the game. But the head coach thought it was important for the starter to keep pushing.

“The biggest thing we've put on Zach was, we need him to pitch,” Trout said. “You know, as a closer, he became a thrower, which just meant he was trying to light up the radar gun and throw it 94, 95 (miles per hour). And he's still got that anytime he wants it. But he's gotta pitch. He's gotta last six, seven innings, 100 pitches. So he's got to get back to pitching and that's what he's been doing. And when he does that, he locates better, he lasts longer in games and he becomes a very dominant pitcher.”

Leigh trotted back to the mound to start the sixth inning. He forced three outs in with seven pitches and was relieved by redshirt senior righty Brent Hebert in the seventh.

The Bobcats’ run support finally came in the eighth. The hosts loaded the bases with no outs before junior third baseman Justin Thompson hit an RBI single down the right field line for the first score of the game. Seniors Jaxon Williams and Will Hollis each went on to add two-RBI singles to boost the Texas State lead to 5-0. Hebert closed out the ninth inning to secure the win.

“I think we just came back and tried not to do too much at the dish,” Trout said. “I thought early we were — you could kind of feel the tension a little bit of trying to break through and finally get that first run and tried to be a little tense with our at-bats. And finally, we were just patient and all of our RBIs came in the middle of the field or opposite field. And so we finally got it down there in the eighth inning.”

Leigh finished the night tossing 99 pitches over 6.0 innings, surrendering four hits, two walks, and zero runs while canning a personal-best 11 batters. Hebert used 58 pitches to work through the final 3.0 innings, giving up just one hit and one walk while striking out five and preserving the shut out to earn the win.

Hollis extended his hitting streak to nine-straight games, tying with Williams by going 2-4 at the plate.

Texas State (10-4) will resume its home series with Bethune-Cookman (5-9) on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and finish it off on Sunday at noon.

San Marcos Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666