Any college baseball team finding itself short on pitching after this week’s major league draft might want to consider calling Reece Easterling.
The former College Station Cougar was razor sharp in pitching the Brazos Valley Bombers to a 9-3 victory over the Acadiana Cane Cutters on Thursday night at Travis Field.
Easterling pitched seven innings, allowing just two singles as the Bombers (7-0) remained unbeaten in their lucky start to their 13th season in the Texas Collegiate League. The Cane Cutters (1-5) didn’t got a runner to second base against Easterling, who will spend the rest of the summer working with a personal trainer in Boston in anticipation of signing with a college team.
“As of right now, I’m still looking,” Easterling said. “I got a couple of offers. I’m just taking everything into consideration.”
The right-hander who pitched three innings against the Cane Cutters in the season opener struck out three and walked two in matching the season-best seven innings by a Bombers’ starter thrown by Henry Bird in Tuesday’s 11-1 victory over Baton Rouge.
Easterling’s effort was a little more impressive as he needed only 69 pitches, throwing 10 or less in four innings.
“My mentality is really to attack and get ahead of the hitters as much as possible and put them in a hole with two strikes and kind of make them tense up more, and it helps me relax,” Easterling said.
The approach allowed the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder to get 14 ground-ball outs.
“I was trying to get ahead with the four-seam [fastball] and then coming back with a two-seam that had a little more movement and depth to it,” he said. “I feel they were getting a little more on top, causing the ground balls.”
It might have been enough to get a better scholarship offer.
“I think he had some good looks today,” Bombers coach Brian Nelson said. “I think he might have an opportunity to go make a commitment somewhere, then from there he’ll go train and get a little bit better.”
Nelson is keeping his fingers crossed that Easterling might return in late July to help the Bombers push for a sixth TCL title in the last seven years.
The Bombers, who lost to the Cane Cutters in the divisional round of the playoffs last season at home, beat Acadiana for the third time this season.
The Bombers supported Easterling by building a 9-0 lead. Leading the charmed Bombers was leadoff hitter Ridge Rogers, who had three hits in the first four innings. Rogers singled in the first. He as caught leaning toward second by Acadiana starting pitcher Bailey Holstein but was called safe on the pickoff attempt, much to the chagrin of Acadiana coach Ricky VanAsselberg. Rogers came around to score on a two-run double by Cole Coker. In the third, the left-handed hitting Rogers took a step toward the dugout after taking a dandy two-strike curveball by Holstein, but the umpire called the pitch a ball apparently for being high. A few pitches later Rogers doubled and eventually scored for a 3-0 Bombers lead.
Rogers added an RBI single in the fourth inning as the Bombers scored four runs, though they had only one other hit. Holstein got a fly-ball out after walking the inning’s first two batters, but he was lifted for Southeastern right-hander Noah Hughes, who had a tough six-batter stretch, hitting half of the batters along with giving up singles to Bryant Shellenbarger and Rogers before he too was lifted.
The Bombers had 10 hits with Coker matching Rogers’ three and Shellenbarger adding two on the heels of a 3-for-4 game in a 10-4 victory over Baton Rouge in which he missed the cycle by a single. The Bombers got plenty of help from Acadiana pitchers, who hit five batters and walked two. The Bombers also got an extra nine bases via wild pitches.
The Bombers turned three doubles plays, including in the first and second innings to give them six an 11-inning span.
Easterling gave way to Cisco Junior College freshman right-hander Bryce Bennett, who had an eventful TCL debut. The Cane Cutters made the former Madisonville standout pay for walking two batters in the eighth. The frame started with third baseman Sam McElreath robbing Zavier Moore of a double with a backhanded diving grab of a hard-hit grounder. But Trace Henry later hit a two-out, two-run bloop single as Rogers’ luck ended when the center field couldn’t make a diving catch. Another run scored when Bombers’ shortstop Logan Sartori committed a throwing error on a weakly hit grounder. The inning ended with the Bombers throwing out at runner at the plate.
The Bombers will host the Cane Cutters again at 7 p.m. Friday in the first of Brazos Valley’s Friday night fireworks.
NOTES — Easterling played two seasons at Temple Junior College. He went 2-1 as a freshmen and threw 13 2/3 innings for the 36-25 Leopards. This season he went 4-4 with a 6.79 ERA. He threw a team-high 63 2/3 innings with 46 strikeouts and 27 walks in 15 appearances, 13 of them starts, as Temple went 20-30.