CHAPEL HILL, N.C.–North Carolina righthander Daniel Bard struck out
Jon Still to finish his complete-game shutout of North Carolina State,
pumped his fist and pointed to the sky.
As emotion flowed out of
his body, confidence flowed back in. Bard struck out eight batters,
allowed four hits and did not issue a walk against an NC State team
that entered the weekend series leading the Atlantic Coast Conference
in batting average, runs, on-base and slugging percentage. North
Carolina coach Mike Fox called it the best-pitched game of Bard’s
career, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for his team–which
pulled into sole possession of first place in the conference–or Bard’s
“I’ve never seen Bard pitch like that before,” NC
State hitting coach Jeff Waggoner said. “Bard really showed a lot more
than he did last year, that’s for sure.”
Bard opened the season
on the Royals’ short list to become the first pick overall. His
effortless delivery and mid-90s fastball had helped him strikeout 82
batters in 65 Cape Cod League innings, but the knock against the
6-foot-4 righthander was that he had never found enough consistency
with his secondary pitches to average more than a strikeout per inning
during the college season.
Bard went 3-0, 1.93 in his first
three starts–including a 13-strikeout complete-game against
Purdue–before yielding career-worsts of 10 hits, 10 runs and nine
earned runs in a March 17 loss to Maryland.
That sent Bard into
a three-game funk in which he failed to make it of the fifth inning in
three straight starts. He allowed nine runs on nine walks and 11 hits
in 12 total innings against Georgia Tech, Florida State and Miami. Bard
held Virginia Tech without an earned run for seven innings (four
unearned runs did score) in his last start before facing NC State, but
he still walked five batters in that game.
“The Maryland game
hurt my confidence,” said Bard, who hadn’t worked without a walk since
his first start of the season. “I was leaving the ball up in the zone
and the next couple starts I had lost confidence in my fastball. I
pretty much found it out there (Sunday).”
Bard worked almost
exclusively off his 91-93 mph two-seam sinker and his slider against NC
State. His four-seamer gets into the mid-90s, but first-year UNC
pitching coach Scott Forbes has spent the season stressing pitching to
contact to Bard and fellow rotation-mate Andrew Miller.
are outs, no matter how you get them,” said Bard, who hadn’t allowed an
earned run 16 innings to improve his record to 5-2, 3.82 with 67
strikeouts in 61 innings.
Forbes added, “When he pitches
aggressively, he’s throwing more strikes and his stuff is good enough
that most guys at this level aren’t going to get good swings against
Forbes didn’t make any mechanical adjustments, though Bard
made one on his own before the Virginia Tech start. He had always
landed on a stiff front leg and opted for a softer landing during a
bullpen session, finding the experiment successful.
to Bard’s command of his slider to explain his dominance. When the
6-foot-4 righthander struggled, it often came in locating his offspeed
pitches, allowing opponents to sit on his fastball.
“How can a
kid with that good an arm lose confidence?” Fox said. “That surprised
me a little. He might have told coach Forbes that, but he never told
me. I didn’t see that. Things like that happen in baseball; you’re not
going to have smooth sailing everyday. If he did lose some confidence,
he’s over it now.”
• Oregon State junior righthander Dallas Buck is rolling along this season and beat California ace Brandon Morrow
last weekend in a 5-2 duel. But scouts’ concerns about his decreased
velocity this season–Buck slid from the 89-91 mph range last year to
the 85-88 range this year–were validated when an MRI revealed his
elbow soreness was caused by a sprained ligament. There was no evidence
of a tear, and he threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings Thursday against Cal
Poly to improve to 9-0, 2.76.
• Arizona junior righthander Mark Melancon
felt tightness in his right arm, and an MRI revealed a strained
ligament. He won’t need surgery, just three weeks of rest. Melancon was
3-3, 2.97 with four saves and a 52-15 K-BB ratio in 39 innings and had
established himself as the top relief prospect in the year’s draft, and
one that could potentially follow the recent trend of polished college
closers fast-tracked to the majors.
• Missouri State righthander Brett Sinkbeil left
last Friday’s start in the first inning with a strained oblique muscle.
He threw a bullpen the following Monday, looked fine and will make his
next start Saturday.
• Virginia Commonwealth righthander Harold Mozingo
missed two starts after suffered a hairline fracture near his right
thumb after getting struck by a line drive April 14 against William
& Mary. He was wearing a temporary cast. He was 6-1, 2.14 with an
89-12 K-BB ratio in 76 innings.
• Yavapai (Ariz.) CC infielder Milton Loo,
a ninth-round draft-and-follow of the Reds last season, has battled his
own injury issues with elbow soreness. An examination this week cleared
Loo to play in the posteason for Yavapai, which the National Junior
College Athletic Association ranks as the nation’s No. 2 JC team. Loo
has some irritation in the joint and had been limited to DH duty but
was cleared to return to playing third base. Playing in a wood-bat
league, Loo has hit .323-5-45 for Yavapai with a team-high 27 stolen