Thompson enjoying time at W.Va. State

PARKERSBURG – Every pitcher in baseball is going to have ups and downs.

That’s definitely been the case for West Virginia State right-hander Tyler Thompson, but the Yellow Jacket junior has had more than his fair share of good recently.

The Federal Hocking High School graduate was recently named the Mountain East Conference pitcher of the week and has helped W.Va. State get in position to qualify for the conference tournament.

Retiring head coach Cal Bailey said of Thompson “we really kind of stumbled on to him. We went to watch a kid play in the American Legion tournament in Columbus (Ohio) and he caught our eye.”

Last year, the Jackets advanced to the final West Virginia Conference tournament title game, but fell short. Nonetheless, Thompson had a solid campaign and went 8-0.

Prior to Friday’s complete game loss at Notre Dame, where he fanned seven and walked one but got touched up for 10 hits and six earned runs, the semi-sidearmer led the MEC in strikeouts per nine innings.

Although he originally went to Institute and the Division II program to play shortstop and pitch, Bailey said “we realized that pitching was going to be his strong point.

“The biggest thing is he strengthened up. He’s got a heckuva good breaking ball and his fastball is lightning and it’s got a lot of movement. He keeps the ball down and he can hit his spots regularly.”

Thompson admitted before he arrived at college “I never lifted a weight in my life in high school.”

He soon learned that was not going to cut it if he wanted to have any chance of making an impact at the next level.

“The biggest thing that changed my ways at State and how I look at baseball is when I got put in the (2011) conference championship game (against Concord) and gave up seven runs (six earned) in the first inning and got two outs,” said the sports studies major.

“I didn’t know I was pitching until 15 minutes before the game started. I was shaking in my boots and didn’t know what to do. As a freshman, it was probably the biggest learning experience I had.”

Although technically a senior in the classroom, Thompson still has one year left of baseball to play after this season.

Last summer, he spent time playing in both the Valley League in Virginia and in the Myrtle Beach summer league. He plans to head back to the Valley League this summer.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Thompson said of being a Yellow Jacket. “I’m glad I came down here just because the people I’m around and my teammates are just great. It’s unreal. I never thought I’d make as many friends as I did.

“To tell you the honest truth, I came down here thinking I was going to pretty much do what I did in high school (four-time all-district) my freshman year. I got cracked on and it was a whole different experience.”

Of course, having a legendary coach like Bailey obviously has been a plus for Thompson.

“I knew he was going to help me out and he’s really improved my game a ton,” said the former Lancer. “Cal has worked with me so much with my different pitches. My location is the biggest thing and I’ve worked on hitting spots and keeping the ball down.”

Thompson, who said he spent this past Christmas holiday back home before heading to the Sunshine State to visit Chase Fieler at Florida Gulf Coast University for New Year’s and his birthday (Jan. 2), features a two-seam fastball, a slider he calls “my best pitch” as well as a knuckleball and a change he uses on occasion.

When questioned what his biggest surprise was about being a collegiate student-athlete he said, “discipline. I thought I was going to come down here and run the show and I got set straight to tell you the truth.”

No matter what happens from here on out, Thompson just wants to help his team win. Like all players, he also wouldn’t mind getting a shot to pitch after college.

“I mean there’s always that thought in the back of your mind you want to go to the next level,” he added. “You never know, I guess.

“I would 100 percent go if I did, even if it was for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich I’d go to play baseball.”