When talking to UC Irvine junior starting pitcher Wes Etheridge, one notices that he has the ideal athletic mentality. Nothing bothers him, which may be why he is such a dominant pitcher in the Big West.
Etheridge pitched his freshman and sophomore years at Cypress College, where he lit up the stat sheet with an 8-1 record, ERA of 2.65 and 66 strike outs in 78 innings pitched. He was honored as the Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was named to the first team All-State. His success caught the eye of UCI Head Coach Dave Serrano, who brought him in to pitch at Anteater Ballpark for his remaining two seasons of eligibility.
His junior college success has carried over to Division I play. Coupled with fellow starting pitcher Scott Gorgen, they are two of the best ‘top of the rotation’ pitchers in the Big West, if not the country. Etheridge currently boasts an 11-4 record and an ERA of 2.86.
One explanation for his success is his God-given talent. Etheridge uses a mid-80s fastball that has done him good all season. One may think that teams would pick up on his fastball, which he throws a majority of the time. However, what makes his fastball so devastating is its sinking ability.
The pitch looks like a straight fastball coming to the plate, but sinks just before the pitcher registers it, thus inducing a plethora of ground balls. He may be classified as a ground ball pitcher, but he leads the team with 88 strikeouts and is ranked 55th nationally in that category through Friday.
Another, and perhaps a more important explanation for his success, involves his mental edge. Every game, every inning and every pitch is a new one for him. If anything negative happens during a game, he forgets about it and moves on.
Many players dwell too much on their mistakes, and it affects their play. Players usually fall into slumps for solely mental reasons. Etheridge attributes his mental edge to religion.
‘If someone gets a big double or home run on me, I just think about God,’ Etheridge said. ‘After all, baseball is just a game. There are bigger and more important things in life. If a homer is hit, I just think about God. It helps me forget about my mistake and move on.’
When asked about his favorite moment pitching thus far in the season, he responded, ‘I really can’t remember. I just forget all my games, even the latest outings.’ He could have chosen his eight innings of shutout baseball to go along with his six strikeouts against Nevada earlier in the season or his eight innings of one run ball allowed against New Mexico, where he registered eight strikeouts.
Instead, he offered the ninth inning rally-win against Pacific on Sunday, May 12 as his favorite moment. The game saw the Anteaters rally back from a 8-3 deficit and score eight times in the ninth inning to win 11-8. Although, Etheridge was not involved in the play, he stated that it was a telling moment for the team. ‘We have won a lot of games this season, but never in that dramatic fashion. Now we know that we can win when we are down big in the ninth inning, and it’s a good feeling.’
Etheridge has been a large part of the success of this Anteater ball club, which is currently ranked 12th in the nation. He insists that although the rankings are satisfying, they mean nothing.
‘The rankings are made by a bunch of guys who sit around a table. You could be ranked first in the preseason and not even make the playoffs. Our team realizes this, and we just go out to play our best. We don’t play with a number-12 ranking on our chests.’
Although he comments on the seriousness of the players and coaching staff, he is quick comment on the embarrassing music, which he describes as extremely ‘girly’ of the team.
‘Songs like ‘Glamorous’ by Fergie and ‘Maneater’ by Nelly Furtado are really bad but you listen to them enough and you start to like them,’ Etheridge said. ‘It’s kind of sad how Division I baseball players enjoy this music in the clubhouse.’