Then, once you have that down, learn how to spell it.
Don’t complain about the wind in Taylor Stadium; it’s just a byproduct of Rob Zastryzny sprinting his way to notoriety in Columbia, MO. In the Missouri freshman’s third start of the year, he allowed two runs over 5 1/3 innings, on par with his season’s numbers coming in – 10.2 innings pitched and four earned runs allowed.
But this one was different. It was opening day. It was his first collegiate win. On a day in which Missouri had already lost game one of its double-header with University of Illinois-Chicago – an 11-7 defeat – Zastryzny restored a semblance of order to the Tigers’ starting rotation, part of a staff that had allowed 33 runs in its previous two games.
“Just spotting up my fastball, trying to make them hit it,” says Zastryzny of his gameplan on the mound. “With this cold, they’re not going to hit it as far.”
“He elevated his game when he needed to,” Coach Tim Jamieson says of Zastryzny. “He didn’t have a lot of situations where he needed to really elevate, but he was throwing strikes. The hitters didn’t really get a good look at him until the sixth inning.”
“Rob threw real well,” says his catcher Ben Turner. “He did a good job attacking hitters and just sticking to the plan that [pitching coach Matt] Hobbs had established before the game.”
Staff ace Matt Stites, who started game one because of Friday’s rainout, managed only four innings on 105 pitches. Then followed Zastryzny; And when the staff was in need, the lefty delivered.
“He was just able to pound the zone, get ahead of hitters, keep them off balance,” explains Turner. “He had a good mix.”
The Flames did practically all their damage with one out in the sixth inning, scoring two runs. Through his first five, Zastryzny was nearly unhittable, only allowing one hit and striking out three without letting in a run.
Contrary to their mascot, however, Illinois-Chicago hardly brought flames to Columbia, as it got into the twenties at Taylor Stadium on Saturday. Zastryzny, a native of Corpus Christi, TX says that the Missouri weather is one roadblock he will have to overcome.
“I’m not really used to it,” explains Zastryzny. “I’m from south Texas. But I went to the back of the locker room and in there had a heat pack on me, so I kept [my arm] warm pretty well in between innings.”
The high school second team All-American from Calallen High School went 17-1 his senior year with a microscopic 0.40 ERA, allowing only 58 base runners in his 104 innings pitched. So far, he has been more than reliable as a freshman at Missouri, allowing only six runs in his 16 innings.
“I had a lot more strikeouts in high school,” says Zastryzny. “These hitters are good and if you leave a pitch up there, they’re going to hit it, where in high school they’ll probably miss it.”
However, with such a small sample size, Jamieson says that the best way to evaluate the Texan’s performance is to examine his composure.
“You look at some of the guys we had that are in the big leagues and they weren’t as composed as he is right now as a freshman,” reveals Jamieson. “He’s got confidence. He’s got that swagger. He believes in himself. And he’s got good stuff, too.”
Zastryzny , who averaged about six innings-per-start in high school, says that his main focus for the rest of the season is to work on his stamina. With a rotation that so far has only been a model of inconsistency, the Tigers could use a consistent six-inning starter in the middle of the weekend.
“I need to improve on my stamina; a lot more legs and running and stuff,” explains Zastryzny. “Just keep warm, stretched out.”
If he does able himself to go deeper into games, he could be a lethal weapon on the mound for at least the next three years at Missouri.
“He can hit 90,” says Jamieson. “You don’t see a lot of left-handers do that.”
“He’s really mature beyond his age,” explains Turner. “He really understands what he’s doing out there and he understands what he needs to do to get hitters out. He doesn’t just throw the ball just to throw it. He really understands how to pitch a lot better than some guys.”