Former Southampton pitcher settles in at VCU
Published 11:34 am Saturday, April 2, 2016
Tanner Winters was named first-team all-district pitcher and first-team all-region first baseman after a stellar senior campaign, one in which he went 9-0 and led the Indians to the Colonial Rivers Conference Tournament.
Choosing to further his education at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he is studying exercise science, there was hope that Winters would be able to crack the starting rotation as a true freshman. An ACL injury just weeks before camp derailed that opportunity, but Winters is back on the mound after more than a year of physical therapy. The redshirt freshman made his debut out of the bullpen on March 15, earning his first collegiate victory in an 11-7 win over Virginia Military Academy.
“I didn’t get to practice in the fall, so I got a slow start this year,” he said, noting that the team had already played 14 games before he was able to dig his cleats into the mound.
“[The injuries] have made me a lot stronger. I make sure to take a lot better care of myself to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The Rams are 16-8, 3-0 in the Atlantic 10 Conference, and Winters looks to be a integral part of the young team’s NCAA Tournament and College World Series hopes.
He’s had eight innings of work, allowing only two earned runs in four appearances, but has adapted quickly to the nuances at the college level.
“You can’t overpower a college hitter or rely on your fastball as much as you can in high school,” Winters said.
“Everyone can hit, so you have to go to your secondary pitches more often to get people out.”
His go-to pitch is his slider, which he used on both of strikeouts this season.
It’s a credit to his father, Tim, who Winters said taught him everything he knows.
“We went to the batting cages every day before and after school, where he helped me with my swing and my pitching craft,” Winters said.
“I wouldn’t be here without him.”
Despite being an hour and a half away from home, Winters mentioned that he has kept tabs on his former team.
He said that he’s been most impressed with a fellow pitcher and close friend, Wesley Pierce, who tossed the first perfect game in Southampton history on March 17.
“I’m not sure what the [VCU] coaches think, but I think he’s a pretty good player,” Winters said. “Maybe we can get him up here.”
If it were to happen, they could make quite the formidable duo.