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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Throwin’ flames

 
 

It’s rare that a team’s ace pitcher and its closer are close in the strikeout column.
Texas A&M starter Barret Loux leads the Big 12 with 70 strikeouts, but not far behind is Aggie closer John Stilson with 66.
“I do secretly but he doesn’t know,” Stilson said about a competition between the pair. “I want to try to get Barret in strikeouts.”
The odds are against Stilson, who averages 2.5 innings per appearance, because Loux averages almost six innings per start.
But if Stilson’s record of working hard to get where he needs to be is any indication, he could be right there with Loux by the end of the season.
“I work my butt off every day,” Stilson said. “I give it 110 percent no matter what. I try to do the best I can at everything.”
Stilson was not a pitcher until a little more than a year ago.
He was recruited out of high school to play short stop at Texarkana College for former A&M assistant Will Bolt.
A teammate’s suspension led to a need on the mound and an opportunity for Stilson, who had thrown little more than high school batting practice, to realize his future.
“I had a good arm at short,” Stilson said. “I always begged him to let me throw and he was like, ‘All right, we’ll give you a shot.’ So he let me do it.”
Stilson went 12-1 that season with a 2.44 ERA and 78 strike outs.
He was drafted in the 19th round of the MLB Draft by the Minnesota Twins and had colleges from around the nation calling for his arm.
Now at Texas A&M, Stilson leads the team with a 1.25 ERA, giving up six earned runs in 43.1 innings pitched. He leads the Aggies with a .145 opponent batting average.
“Everything worked out how it was supposed to,” he said. “I know I’m where I need to be at right now.”
For the pitcher whose solution to most things is to just throw harder, things didn’t come so easy out of the gate.
During fall practices, Stilson hovered around the 90 mph mark on his fastball. Good, but not great. As with everything, Stilson was determined to get better.
“Over Christmas break I lifted two or three times a day,” he said. “I got tons stronger than what I was when I came in. When I came back I was pumping 94, 95, 96 and now it’s gone all the way up to 99.”
Stilson’s fastball is his primary pitch. He has a five-pitch mix including a curve, changeup, slider and split finger, but the fastball is what burns most batters.
“You can’t throw in the 90s and not have some talent,” he said. “But you can’t throw where I’m at now without some hard work. It’s taken a lot of both.”
Stilson sometimes fills in the role of long reliever, occasionally pitching more than four innings in a game to ensure an Aggie win. Other times he’s the typical closer, throwing less than two innings.
The mixture of appearances isn’t something the former starting pitcher is used to, but it’s a role he has accepted.
“If coach wants you to go do this, then make sure you go do it,” Stilson said. “You gotta get the job done no matter what.”

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