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Abbott perfects pitching recipe

South Boston News
Andrew Abbott / April 20, 2017

The basic ingredients behind successful pitchers include this mix: keeping a positive attitude, without getting too high or low emotionally; staying healthy, learning how to really pitch, rather than being just a thrower, getting your defense to work successfully behind you, and learning to consistently throw strikes.

Comet senior left-hander Andrew Abbott has a considerable upside. He’s already inked a binding NCAA commitment to play in the brutally tough Atlantic Coast Conference next season, for the Virginia baseball program.

The Cavaliers already have one national title and are again nationally ranked this season. (Virginia is currently 11th in the nation.)

Abbott is also drawing considerable interest from professional scouts, and it’s still possible he will go straight to the professional ranks. That said, it appears, for a variety of reasons, that Virginia baseball will be his best option, with the opportunity to work with an excellent coaching staff led by head coach Brian O’Connor, who has a very capable staff. The pitching coach is Karl Kuhn.

At the moment, Abbott, who was set to pitch last night against Tunstall, has lights out statistics. The left-hander is 4-0, with 24 innings pitched. He has a microscopic 0.58 ERA. And here’s a line that will get a fair amount of attention - 60 strikeouts, against one walk this season.

Maintaining consistency in the strike zone is always important.

Halifax County High School baseball coach Kenneth Day is still seeking improvement from Abbott.

Wisely, Day is trying to lower expectations about both the pitcher and the team. Day said Abbott is “going out and doing his job. He contributes to the team, just like everybody else.

“When it’s his time to pitch, he gets himself mentally and physically ready to pitch,” said Day.

And Abbott does more than mound duty. He occupies the critical spot of leadoff hitter in the lineup, setting the table for more productive offense, and is hitting .450 there.

But Day knows the Comets will need a whole set of pitchers and the rest of the team to continue to contribute, while maintaining a very positive attitude. And the head coach reminds every one that basic hustle takes no skill.

Abbott, meanwhile, is keeping all this in perspective, especially that strikeout to walk ratio.

“I’m just going out there trying to do my part on the team. The guys are hitting behind me, playing defense behind me. My job is to go out there and throw strikes, and not let easy runners get on base, make sure everybody earns their way on the base paths, make sure I don’t walk anybody,” said Abbott.

Abbott remembers the walk, noting it was the leadoff hitter at Franklin County on the road.

So what happened?

“That batter, I fell behind 2-0. I came back 2-2 and I had two really close pitches that the umpire called balls. That could have went either way,” said Abbott.

The pitcher means no disrespect, but believes he got the strikeout. Halifax went on to win.

“With all my pitches, I can throw strikes,” Abbott said.

He uses four, including a four and two-seam fastball, a change and a curve. “My best pitch is probably the curve.

“It’s been suiting me pretty well this season,” said Abbott.

Abbott had a strong outing Friday after a lengthy bus ride. He went out, attacked the zone, and Halifax posted a 9-1 win in the opener in South Carolina.

Abbott has a very low ERA and notes the opposition generally has guessed right on a handful of pitches.

He doesn’t see any real screw-ups in his body of work this season.

Abbott said he has surrendered two homers, against Bassett at home and Franklin County on the road.

“In this case, they were the same pitch, they were high and away fastballs. They reached out and got the barrel on it and drove it out,” said Abbott.

Abbott understands he’s gotten better at being a pitcher, rather than a thrower.

He cites “the constant work. You can never be satisfied, as Coach Day would like to say. I know my fastball might not be the fastest you’ve ever seen, I’m not the biggest guy. But I like to come out there and get ahead, because I know my off-speed can get you out,” said Abbott. And he still has a solid fastball.

His control is as good as ever, the left-hander believes.

Abbott is a strong and versatile athlete, and he’s already made the state 5-A tournament in another sport, swimming. Abbott was a state place winner.

He’s confident swimming helps his pitching, too.

“Swimming definitely helps my arm stay flexible and not really get tight during the season. It keeps the soreness out too,” said Abbott. He thinks swimming has helped him over the past seasons.

“I haven’t had that many arm problems,” said Abbott.

He has been around 90 mph as far as velocity, although the current numbers are not available.

Abbott believes he’s still headed to Virginia, although he noted, “me and my dad have been talking (about the pro draft). It’s got to be a life-changing amount of money to get me to the draft. Education will always be there.”

Abbott is team-first.

He believes Halifax has come a long way, from not really being together at the beginning of the spring to acting like a team. He’s positive about the bonds built on the beach trip.

The hitting is coming along, finally. The pitching is steady. Halifax is playing together and Abbott believes the team is crafting a sense of unity.

The team has a lot of upside. Abbott said the team took Day’s message about behaving properly when they weren’t at the ball club seriously. And the team bonded hanging out on the beach, and enjoying team activities to help this team jell together.

There’s still quite a bit of baseball remaining. Halifax will have major challenges, starting with Conference 16 action.

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