The first thing Freddy Avis expressed about his Stanford debut was disappointment.
The disappointment had nothing to do with Avis’ performance. The former Menlo School star worked two perfect innings in taking the start for the Cardinal against U.C. Davis Tuesday. He even departed with a lead, as Stanford got on the board in the first inning to take an early 1-0 advantage.
But after clinging to a one-run lead throughout most of the warm Davis afternoon, the Aggies rallied in the bottom of the ninth to walk off with a 2-1 win, handing the Cardinal their third straight loss.
“It was a brutal loss,” Avis said. “It was a quiet ride home.”
Avis hasn’t pitched in an official game since May 22 of last year when he took the ball in Menlo’s Central Coast Section Division III semifinal win over Monte Vista Christian. Shortly thereafter, the 2012 San Mateo Daily Journal Baseball Player of the Year was shut down with an internal impingement of his throwing shoulder.
After rehabbing through the fall, he was originally projected to make his Stanford debut March 5 at Santa Clara University. Cardinal pitching coach Rusty Filter erred on the side of caution when Avis was working through some minor arm stiffness prior to the non-conference matchup, however. Stanford instead handed the ball to senior Dean McArdle, and the senior earned the win, leading Stanford to its ninth straight victory. Since then, the Cardinal have lost six of their last seven.
“We just have yet to click on the field,” Avis said. “We have a lot of good team chemistry. We just haven’t been able to put it all together yet.”
Heading into Tuesday’s start, Avis was one excited dude. And fellow freshman pitcher Daniel Stalwart was keen to point out just how amped up Avis was.
“[Stalwart] noticed when I was taking my warm-up pitches that it was the fastest warm-up they’ve ever seen,” Avis said. “I was just so full of adrenaline.”
The adrenaline seemed to work for Avis, as the freshman worked efficiently through a strict pitch count. In two innings of work, he threw 20 pitches, 12 for strikes — all but three of which were fastballs. He induced four groundball outs, including all three outs in the first inning.
Avis said he doesn’t have any idea what he clocked on the radar gun. While at Menlo, he often sat in the low 90s, and said he topped out at 94 mph. And while he admitted to getting caught up with lighting up the gun at times during his junior and senior seasons, the Stanford philosophy of focusing on throwing strikes has now become his foremost mission.
Ten months between starts will give a pitcher time to reassess his approach, after all.
“I realized how much I missed it … the moment I stepped on the mound,” Avis said.