Off the Wall With Campbell's Allan Winans
Campbell has risen to the top of the Big South Conference standings and has a 2.5-game lead entering May. It has been an impressive run for the Camels, who have not finished higher than fifth in the regular season since the conference abandoned its divisional format for the 2015 season.
Campbell (24-18, 15-3) has already swept four conference series, its most since 2014. The Camels face a tricky stretch run, however, starting this weekend with a series against High Point. The Panthers are tied for third in the conference, three games off the pace, and have the best RPI (124) in the Big South. Campbell also has series left against Winthrop, the preseason favorite, and Radford, the 2017 conference tournament champion, as well as midweek games against Ohio State and East Carolina.
The Camels’ pitching and defense has been critical to its success this season. Campbell leads the Big South in team ERA (4.38) and ranks second in fielding percentage (.972). It has produced enough offense along the way and has won eight of its last 10 games.
Redshirt senior righthander Allan Winans has been a key to the staff. He started the season as the Camels midweek starter before moving to the front of the rotation and is 5-4, 2.48 with 71 strikeouts and 15 walks in 58 innings. Baseball America caught up with Winans to talk about Campbell’s surge to the top of the standings, this weekend’s series against High Point and how eating like Justin Verlander is helping him on the mound.
You guys have been playing really well in conference play. What’s been the key for you guys?
“Some of the things all clicked at the right moment right before the conference season started. It was like when the weekend came we were like ‘If we take care of our own business and play like we’re supposed to play, there’s not going to be many people that are going to be able to beat us.’ It wasn’t necessarily who we were playing, it was more so if we get our own jobs done then the game is going to take care of itself. I think that mindset has really helped us this year and really given us a lot of success.”
You’ve been pitching really well lately. How do you feel on the mound?
“I feel really good. I made some strides from last year to this year, some mechanical issues I’ve been figuring out a little bit and just pitching with a lot of confidence. It’s something that’s helped my game. I pitched with a lot of confidence in junior college – that’s part of what got me to Campbell. Last year I kind of last that a little bit, but this year I’ve got it back and it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a pretty fun ride, this being my last year and all.”
This weekend you have a tough series against High Point. What’s the key for this weekend?
‘They are a good team, they’ve got things rolling and they’ve got a few hitters at the top of the lineup that have really been swinging it. I think if we just pitch to the plan that we set forth every weekend – we’ll look at video and figure out a plan to execute against those guys – and if we just do what we’re supposed to do it doesn’t really matter who we’re playing. As long as we play some defense and pitch it how we’ve been pitching and get the timely hitting, it’s not going to be too big of an issue I don’t think. Obviously, they’re a really good team and they’re going to put up a really good fight and I’m looking forward to a really good series.”
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Who is the best hitter you’ve faced in your career?
“I would probably say (North Carolina State outfielder Brett) Kinneman. He kind of covers the whole plate. I started against them at home about a month ago. I threw him an outside fastball, it was probably the best pitch I threw all night, and he took it down the left field line for a double and I was like, ‘Dang, that’s a pretty good hitter.’ He starts open and he kind of finishes open too and he still was able to get that pitch. It was impressive watching that.”
What’s your go-to order at Chipotle?
“I probably get a bowl, chicken, brown rice, definitely hot sauce, not a sour cream guy, some cheese. But we only have one 30 minutes away. (Justin) Verlander eats Taco Bell before every start and that’s what I’ve been doing this year. Verlander’s my favorite guy to watch throw and I try to mimic my game after that guy. So, every Thursday night I’ll get Taco Bell. I get two soft tacos, no lettuce, a five-layer burrito and a Baha Blast. And it’s been working, man.”
How have you tried to model yourself after Verlander?
“My favorite righthanded pitcher is Verlander, my favorite lefthander is (David) Price. I thought I wanted to pitch like Price but when I was younger me and him aren’t very similar, as I found out. Me and Verlander are as similar mechanical wise as I could find. That guy’s a monster. I feel like if you eat like him and if you pitch like him, maybe you can start performing like him. So that’s been my mindset.”
And you feel like there are some mechanical similarities between you and Verlander?
“I’m pretty generic. I’m a pretty generic righthander. I always try to watch the best guys in the world do it. They’re the best for a reason, so they’re obviously doing something right. I try to take a little bit of everything from a lot of different people. As I watch Verlander, he’s so explosive, his direction toward the plate is perfect pretty much and the guy throws 100 mph with an 80 mph, huge breaking ball. So that’s pretty impressive right there. It’s on purpose, most of it. My leg kick, I try to get it similar to him. The way he uses his legs, I try to mimic all of that. I’ve been having success with it. My direction to the plate is probably my biggest key this year. If I’m struggling on the mound, I take a step off and take a second and realize ‘get your direction to the plate.’ That’s something he does real well. Any time I see him pitch I just try to mimic everything he does.”
You guys are going into the stretch run in first place. What do you have to do to hold that lead?
“It’s kind of a control-your-own-destiny kind of thing. We’ve just got to start clicking on all cylinders. The funny thing is that we’ve in first place and we really haven’t played our best baseball yet. We’ll either pitch well and hit well but maybe the defense won’t be there or we’ll hit well and play good defense, but we won’t pitch very well that day. Once we start clicking on all cylinders it’s going to be pretty scary. I’m pretty excited.”