Jeremy McKinney’s first season pitching for Indiana State University was literally painfully short.
The former Franklin Community standout appeared in six baseball games, starting three (1-2 record), in 2015 before being sidelined with suprascapular nerve damage on the back side of his right throwing shoulder.
McKinney, who received a medical redshirt, has bounced back strong. The 6-foot, 195-pounder has a 2-2 record and four saves with a 2.39 earned run average in 14 relief appearances for the Sycamores (21-12, 2-1 Missouri Valley Conference).
A redshirt sophomore, he has 29 strikeouts in 26.1 innings.
“I love what I’m doing,” McKinney said of being a closer.
With McKinney coming off the injury, Indiana State coach Mitch Hannahs said making him a closer gave the coaching staff a chance to monitor his innings.
“He’s a guy that gets better and better every time he seems to go out,” Hannahs said. “Obviously when you are throwing at the back side of the games, there is not much room for error, and he’s really filled that role for us, which has been a big lift to our club.
“He’s seems to have grown, not just physically but mentally matured a lot into this season. He has a very high ceiling in terms of his potential. The scary thing is he’s not close to what he’s going to being at some point.”
Hannahs said on days when McKinney is fresh, he has been throwing the ball in the mid-90 mph range.
“He’s throwing a good slider to compliment that,” Hannahs said. “The last couple of weeks we’ve played in the cold and wind. But the weather is decent and he can get a sweat going.
“His velocity has been as good as anybody we’ve seen against us or on our club.”
Hannahs said there is still a chance McKinney will start later in the season.
“We’ve built him up pitch count wise that we might actually start him,” Hannahs said.
After being cleared to play last July, McKinney pitched for the Danville (Ill.) Dans in the Prospect League.
“I started getting bullpens in and start to get some innings and ready for the fall,” McKinney said. “I was throwing a lot harder over the summer than I had been previously. I was only closing, but I was running it up to 92 to 94 mph. I was topping out at 95 and I hit 96 a few times.
“That’s the hardest I’ve thrown my whole life.”
Before the injury, McKinney said he was averaging 89 to 92 mph and topping out at 93 to 94.
McKinney said he has gotten a lot of help from the Sycamores pitching coach Jordan Tiegs.
“He’s helped me a lot with the process of getting back to good mechanics,” McKinney said. “Whenever he sees me go back to mechanics problem, he’ll let me know.”
Yet there is room for improvement.
“I’m never really satisfied with how I do,” McKinney said. “I keep thinking I can do better.”
However, McKinney said he always has focused more on team goals rather than individual numbers.
“If we all play how we think, there are endless possibilities for us this year,” McKinney said. “It’s probably one of the better teams I’ve ever played on. Last year we had a a lot talent but didn’t come together as a team as we did this year.
“All the guys have bonded so much more this year. I think we have a team that could go really far this year.”
McKinney was starter all through his high school. In his one junior college season at Northwest Florida State College, he started three games but was primarily a reliever.
“When you’re a starter, you’ve got the mindset you are going to go six or seven innings and the other guys are going to finish off the game,” McKinney said. “When you are a closer, you have to have the mindset to go in there and bear down to get the last outs.”
McKinney signed with the University of Cincinnati but asked for his release following a coaching change. He decided to go to junior college and initially attended Iowa Western but then transferred to Northwest Florida State for the spring semester.
McKinney said coach Hannahs offered a partial scholarship and he quickly accepted.
“Going to junior college taught me the time and effort I have to put into things to become who I am,” McKinney said.
Name: Jeremy McKinney
College: Indiana State University
Year: Redshirt sohomore
Personal: Appeared in 15 games, starting three, for Northwest Florida State. Stuck out 35 batters with a 2.48 earned run average n 32.2 innings; lettered four years in baseball at Franklin Community High School; was named first team All-Mid State Conference three times and All-State twice. Has a younger sister, Olivia, at FCHS freshman and older brother, Brett, a FCHS graduate.
Career plans: Majoring in Criminal Justice with concentration in Corrections. Also interested in becoming a firefighter.
Favorite band: Florida Georgia Line
Favorite movie: “Act of Valor”
Favorite way to relax: “I love to fish and I love to hang out with my friends.”
Pregame routine: “I listen to music before the game, but I don’t really have a pregame ritual. Being a closer I kind I have to see how the game is going. Once my name is called, I get ready to do my thing.”