Alec Marsh adds game-changing pitch to his repertoire
The sophomore right-hander is pitching with more confidence, and the results speak for themselves
ASU baseball sophomore right-handed pitcher Alec Marsh added a new pitch to his repertoire a few weeks ago, and it has turned him into a reliable Friday night starter.
Marsh wanted to complement his breaking ball, fastball and changeup with something that could break away from right-handed hitters.
After a discussion with pitching coach Mike Cather, Marsh started throwing a slider in practice and a lot of progress has been made.
“I wanted to get something a little harder than my curveball with a different shape, so I can have more of an advantage against hitters,” Marsh said. "My curveball kind of shapes up a little slow. It has good bite, and it could get some hitters, but I think the better hitters need something a little bit harder.”
But he did not master the pitch right away. Instead, it has been a work in progress. Besides his pitching coach, Marsh said senior left-hander Eli Lingos, who often throws sliders, helped teach him to throw the pitch.
“Eli is a great leader, and he helped me realize there is a difference between a slider and a curveball,” Marsh said. “It was really the big difference for me because when I started throwing a slider, I was thinking about it too much like a curveball.”
Marsh said Lingos told him to throw it like his fastball and since then, he has had a better feel for it.
Only Lingos (2.89 ERA) has a lower ERA than Marsh's 3.33 mark among ASU starters with at least 40 innings pitched.
Marsh had a rough outing in his last start against the Utah Utes last Friday, but he allowed only four combined earned runs in his two starts prior, including 8.1 innings of one-run ball in a win against USC on March 6.
"He's really started to grow up a little bit and started to feel himself, so that is always nice," Lingos said.
Moxy on the Mound
Adding another pitch to his bag of tricks is only part of the story. Having more confidence in his skills has helped fuel Marsh’s success on the mound this season.
Marsh had a rough freshman season last year, finishing with an 8.14 ERA in 11 appearances, but he has taken a big step forward.
“I think the biggest key is just mentality and being more aggressive, not fearing the result of what is going to happen out there and having the mentality that I want to win," Marsh said. "At the end of the day, it is about my stats, and I want those to be good, and I want my team to be good."
Marsh said his intention is to lead on the mound, and head coach Tracy Smith said he has seen that.
“He’s having confidence and throwing multiple pitches in the zone for a strike,” Smith said. “As we were heading into the season, those were the guys that we were talking about being in our pen. Through injuries and failed performances and other things, we have had to bump everybody up. He’s been a huge part of even allowing us to be in a position to win.”
With two strikes, Marsh believes he has three put-away pitches he can go to.
“If I throw my curveball hard and right, it is a put away pitch,” Marsh said. “If I throw the slider away, and even my changeup is good enough to get guys to swing and miss on.”
Marsh said his slider is still a work in progress, but he and Cather call it a “safe pitch,” something that he can go to and know will do the job.
While Marsh said he does not try to throw sliders for a first pitch strike as often as Lingos does, he sees the value in approaching the count differently.
“I mainly like to get ahead with my fastball,” Marsh said. “But we’ve been throwing sliders for first pitch strikes because it is something you can get in there. If you throw a slider 0-0, it is going to be a little softer, something you can throw to get a strike, and if you’ve got a guy 0-2, you throw a slider and it is going to be more aggressive.”
Marsh also said he will throw a first pitch slider the second or third time through the order. This way, the same hitters can’t sit on a first pitch fastball because they know it is coming again and will do damage.
“Especially against better teams, you throw a first pitch fastball in there – sometimes (they) are going to be on it, and I think if you throw a slider, and they are not really looking for it, you can get ahead right away," Marsh said.