When Andrew Checketts took over the UCSB baseball team as both head coach and pitching coach, it was not very surprising to see the surge in performance of his pitching staff in just the first season. This season, he has groomed his pitchers into one of the top pitching teams in the Big West conference.
Of the solid group that Checketts has at his disposal, the team’s ace, sophomore Austin Pettibone has truly been impressive. Just two years in to his college career, Pettibone has made a major stamp as one of the top pitchers in the Big West. In his first year he compiled a 4.44 ERA over 79 innings pitched. He made 17 appearances, 13 starts, led the staff with his eight wins and even earned a save.
“The thing that really stands out about [Austin] is his will to prepare,” Checketts said. “He is committed to preparing and committed to his work ethic and doing things right and so he competes every day. He shows up and competes in the weight room and competes in practice and that translates to him going out every Friday.”
This year he has upped his game as he leads the Gauchos with 12 games started, six wins, 85 innings pitched and leads all UCSB starters with a 3.39 ERA. Among the conference, Pettibone has thrown the most innings and sits at seventh with his six wins.
“His stuff has gotten better,” Checketts said. “He has added about 3-4 miles an hour to his fastball, his change-up has been better, his curveball has improved from where it was and still probably has one more jump to make. He shows it in the bullpen and it hasn’t quite translated to the game yet consistently, but he is really committed.”
On March 15, Pettibone had himself a career performance, pitching a complete game shutout against Sacramento State. He allowed just four hits and did not walk a batter over the course of the game as well as compiling a season-high six strikeouts to lead the Gauchos to a 5-0 victory.
“My complete game shutout this year was [a] pretty cool experience,” Pettibone said. “I threw like 79 pitches. Everything was working and everything was going my way, so it was just a really great feeling as a pitcher.”
Despite his exceptional play so far this season, Austin Pettibone may not even be having the most exciting year of the Pettibone family. On April 22, his older brother Jonathan Pettibone made his first career major league start with the Philadelphia Phillies against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jonathan threw five and a third innings as he struck out six while allowing six hits and just two runs in his debut.
“It’s pretty awesome; I got to go out there when he had his debut out in Philly,” Pettibone said. “It was just a great experience to see him out there and he actually threw pretty well so it was just a really great experience.”
Jonathan has continued to pitch well as he has thrown two more games and has earned a win in both — one against the New York Mets and another versus the Miami Marlins. He is also set to pitch tonight against the San Francisco Giants.
In his three starts in the Major Leagues, Jonathan has earned a 2-0 record and a 3.24 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 16.2 innings. He also has given up just two walks in the three games, something that is a major problem for most young starters as the grand stage has been known to rattle up-and-comers.
“All the scouts and announcers and whoever always mention his composure on the mound whether things are going his way or if they’re not,” Pettibone said. “He even helped with staying calm in those types of situations. Keeping my composure.”
Jonathan is perhaps showing himself as a potential big leaguer to stay. With the recent injury to former Cy Young award winner Roy Halladay, Pettibone may just get a chance to lock down a spot in the Phillies‘ rotation.
Jonathan was drafted in the third round in 2008 by the Phillies and signed out of high school.
“It’s really cool growing up with him in the minor leagues,” Pettibone said. “Watching him grind it out and get better from year to year and get better and get stronger and then finally it paid off and he has got his debut this year. It’s just been cool growing up with that the last five years.”
Jonathan and Austin’s father Jay had made it to the big leagues in 1983, so with a past of pitching the two young men seemed to have their sights set.
“Since I was five years old I was throwing the baseball around and playing tee ball,” Pettibone said. “We were all pitchers and I have a cousin that’s a pitcher in high school right now. It’s just been a Pettibone thing to be a pitcher.”
The two brothers still have a long way to go before the season ends, but they’re certainly set to continue their great years.
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of May 8th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Mark Brocher of the Daily Nexus.