In a scrimmage to close Tuesday’s practice, LSU freshman right-hander Todd Peterson fell behind in the count 3-1 to LSU’s best power hitter, Greg Deichmann.
It was a dangerous situation. Thinking back on how Peterson got out of that scenario, LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn knifed his hand through the air repeatedly.
“Zoom, zoom, zoom,” Dunn said. “Aggressive.”
Peterson went after Deichmann, pounding the strike zone with five straight fastballs before getting Deichmann to fly out to center field.
“That was really a highlight of the day,” Dunn said. “Seeing a young pitcher that understands the importance of, ‘Hey, here it is, I’m going to go after you and make you hit your way on. I’m going to keep doing what I do.’ He kept filling that zone up and making really good pitches.”
Each one of those fastballs clocked in at 91 miles per hour or better, topping out at 93. That’s part of the reason LSU recruited Peterson, who is part of a group of incoming LSU pitchers that are bringing some power to the LSU staff this season.
Of the seven pitchers in LSU’s 2016 signing class, four have registered at least 93 miles per hour on a radar gun. Three of them — Peterson, freshman right-hander Zach Hess and junior college transfer Hunter Kiel — have hit 96 miles per hour or better.
“Not that that in itself is something that’s going to lead to success, but I believe in having pitchers that can dominate,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “It’s hard to dominate if you don’t have velocity on the fastball.”
The upper echelon teams in college baseball are gravitating toward power arms. When Dunn and Mainieri look at teams like Florida and Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference, they see the weapons at their disposal in their pitching staffs.
“Teams have seen they can shorten the game up,” Dunn said. “If they can get their starter through six (innings), then you’ve got your seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-inning guys, and they’re coming in with (velocity) and a power wipeout pitch. Those teams seem to have prospered over the last few years.”
Said Mainieri, “In order to fight fire with fire, you have to have the arms as well.”
Velocity is only one part of the pitching equation, though.
“What does power do? It (allows you to) make more mistakes,” Dunn said. “It’s not the end-all. Velocity is not the thing that you solely look at. It’s still about pitching.”
That’s where Dunn comes in.
Mainieri likes the idea of taking the raw, powerful talent and handing it off to Dunn to be refined.
“If Alan Dunn can work his magic and take a guy who is a good athlete, a physical kid who can throw the ball hard, and now he has command of that fastball and develops secondary pitches, your chances for him being a dominating pitcher are going to be greater,” Mainieri said.
What Dunn tries to teach his players that come in with the natural ability to throw the ball hard is to harness that power while still being able to locate the ball where they want to.
That’s what impressed Dunn and Mainieri about Peterson’s showdown with Deichmann. He brought the heat, and he brought it to a specific spot. The end result was positive.
“Can you command what you have? If you don’t, it doesn’t matter if you throw 150 miles an hour,” Dunn said. “If you can’t throw it across that 17-inch white thing, you can’t pitch.
“Dudes that can pitch? They’re going to pitch.”