Mitch Caster assumed any throws he made as a Franklin College baseball player would wind up in a first baseman’s glove.
Initially, the former Greenwood High School player was right.
But Caster, a shortstop for the Grizzlies as a freshman and a pitcher/infielder in high school, combined increased velocity with a nasty curveball to work his way into a more prominent role during the 2016 season.
Now the right-hander is one of coach Lance Marshall’s most trusted arms having helped lead Franklin College to a record of 19-14 entering Friday’s home game against Anderson University.
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Second among Grizzlies pitchers in innings pitched with 59, Caster holds a 4-3 record to go along with a team-best 2.59 earned run average. He’s second in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference in strikeouts with 62.
“Honestly, I thought I was going to be an infielder when I got to college. I would (pitch) in practice here and there, but as a sophomore I was throwing the ball harder,” Caster said. “And just being around other pitchers in college helped, too.”
Caster estimates his fastball was maxing out at between 78 and 80 miles per hour when he arrived on campus in 2014. These days the 5-foot-11, 175-pound junior is able to register as high as 88 mph on the radar gun.
In an 11-6 victory at Earlham on March 31, Caster worked 7 1/3 innings, surrendered five hits and fanned a career-high 10 batters.
He produced eight strikeouts this season both in a win against Albion and last week’s 3-2 loss at Mt. St. Joseph in the opener of a three-game series.
Tied for the fourth spot in the HCAC standings with an 11-9 mark, Franklin College could be on track to produce its first winning record since the 2014 Grizzlies completed the season 24-17 overall and 15-10 against conference opponents.
“I just want to do whatever I can to help us win,” Caster said. “This season has been a lot of fun. We’ve had young teams the past couple of years, but it’s all starting to come together.”
Marshall, now in his 20th season as Grizzlies coach, appreciates what Caster, the lone player on the roster who prepped at a Johnson County high school, has been able to accomplish in his career.
“Mitch was a really good athlete in high school. A positional player and a pitcher, so we weren’t sure which way he was going to go. But he’s really developed as a pitcher and really come into his own,” Marshall said. “He has a fantastic curveball, and that probably has contributed greatly to the strikeout total.
“He can locate, spot up fastballs whenever he wants and has a really good change-up, as well. Mitch is a competitor and he throws strikes.”
Name: Mitch Caster
Innings pitched: 59