Robert Tyler took the baseball in the top of the fifth inning of Tuesday’s Georgia baseball game and never let go of it until he struck out the final Furman batter.
Overall, Tyler finished the game having pitched five innings, allowing two hits, one run, one walk and notched six strikeouts in his first win as a Bulldog, and Georgia’s second team win.
Mixing up speeds to near perfection, the 6-foot-4 freshman from Cordele looked like a dominant weekend starter at Foley Field on Tuesday.
“He had all three of his pitches working,” sophomore catcher Zack Bowers said. “He’s just got a plus arm. He pitched like he was an upperclassman.”
Tyler boasts a fastball that travels upwards of 95 mph and a breaking pitch that hits the 80 mph range.
“He’s got a great arm and a really good mentality,” Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin said. “He’s got a chance to be really, really good.”
Tyler boasts a change-up in addition to the heater and breaking pitch, and used all three to get the Bulldogs out of some tight situations.
It looked like Tyler might need to come out of the game earlier than he did, as he gave up one run in the top of the sixth inning off of two singles, a walk and a sacrifice. Tyler buckled down and got the final out of the inning, something the team has struggled to do in 2014.
“My biggest thing is I’m not showing any emotion,” Tyler said. “Everybody is always saying ‘you need to show you’re mad, put some feeling in the team’, but I just like to keep my cool and do what I do.”
In the shaky sixth inning, Tyler had to keep his cool when Furman center fielder Sky Overton hit a hard line drive right at the mound. Tyler barely had time to react, as the ball hit him in the right arm, his throwing arm.
He almost caught the hard-hit ball, but it rolled down his body and onto the ground. Tyler had the presence of mind to pick it up and throw the runner out, allowing only one run on the play that could have been disastrous.
“In that situation it really calmed me down and got my composure back,” Tyler said. “There’s not really much you can think about in that situation. There’s not any time you can think about getting out of the way.”
Tyler said he feels fine, then pointed to the inside part of his upper right arm where the ball hit him.
“I didn’t really get stiff or cold or anything,” he said.
As for Stricklin, the play put a scare into the first year Bulldogs’ coach, as the last thing he wants to see is his pitcher with arguably the best stuff on the team get hit in his throwing arm.
“There certainly was some concern,” Stricklin said. “It didn’t deflect, it hit him and it stopped. He’s going to have a little bruise but he’s going to be fine.”
After finding out he was OK, Stricklin joked with his young pitcher.
“I went out there and said ‘hey you got to charge that ball’,” Stricklin said. “He kind of looked at me and didn’t know what I meant, then he laughed and threw a warm up pitch, and his second warm up pitch was 98 mph.”
Stricklin said the team joked around a little bit with Tyler as well. Early in the game, he hadn’t shown the true velocity he could reach, as Stricklin said Tyler was throwing around 94, then as low as 89 or 90 mph. Tyler took the joking to heart and dominated.
“I think he took it a little personal,” Stricklin said. “He was letting it go tonight. That’s as hard as I’ve seen anyone throw in a long time.”
Perhaps a little banter from his teammates is all Tyler needs to become a dominant weekend starter for the Bulldogs sooner, rather than later.