Huff makes pitch for spot in UHV rotation
By BY MIKE FORMAN - MFORMAN@VICAD.COM
Jan. 20, 2013 at 11 p.m.
Updated Jan. 19, 2013 at 7:20 p.m.
Nick Huff spent the summer in Canada but never felt as cold as he did this week at Riverside Stadium.
Huff and his UHV teammates worked through the un-baseball like weather as they prepared for their season opener, which is two weeks away.
"We're just getting back in and warming our bodies up and getting used to this chilly weather," he said. "We're just getting our arms loose slowly and getting the bats back moving."
The next two weeks will be extremely important for Huff, who is making the transition from a relief pitcher to a starter.
The senior could be on the mound when the Jaguars take on Wiley College in a doubleheader Feb. 3 at Riverside Stadium.
"I'm excited and nervous at the same time but mostly excited," Huff said. "I guess the main thing is to have a little bit more endurance and to let my arm last and stay out there longer for my team. It's going to be something different than coming in for two innings."
Huff was UHV's primary closer last season and made 13 appearances and had four saves with a team-best 2.05 ERA to go along with 29 strikeouts in 26.1 innings.
He continued in the closer's role for the Western Major Baseball League champion Regina Red Sox in Saskatchewan.
Huff had a 4-0 record with an 0.95 ERA and recorded a team-high 11 saves.
Huff also pitched in relief at Angelina College and hasn't started since the 2007 season in high school at Groveton.
"I guess the biggest thing is you have to lengthen out your throwing and running as well," he said. "You need to get your legs under you and some long distance in for endurance and make sure you have your sprints. It all comes together."
UHV pitching coach Doug Heinold has been pleased with the progress Huff has made.
"The biggest transition is just going to be the innings," Heinold said. "He's strong. There's really no doubt in my mind that he can make the transition. He throws strikes, and he's able to work the hitters very well."
Heinold has worked with Huff on throwing a changeup in addition to his two-seam fastball and slider.
"I was more of a two-pitch guy when I was a closer," Huff said. "Adding a changeup will be my home run pitch hopefully."
"We started that in the fall," Heinold added. "He was told in the fall he was going to be a starter. So that's one thing we discussed is he's going to have to have a changeup. It's coming along well. I think he'll be fine."
NOTES• Huff won't be the only UHV player changing roles. Andrew Walker is going through a bigger transition. Walker played basketball at Stephen F. Austin before tearing his meniscus. He sat out last year and attended Victoria College. He played baseball in high school at Dayton and will pitch out of the bullpen for the Jaguars. "He's a big guy," Heinold said. "He's strong. Being 6-foot-5, 220, he can throw some heat in there. He does have some experience at the high school level. Naturally, it's a big step. At the same time, he throws hard enough to get in there and mix it up with the guys. It's going to take a while for him to get to where he needs to be, but that's with anybody making that jump from high school to the next level."
• UHV head coach Terry Puhl said the Jaguars are likely to open the season with a pitching rotation of Huff, Cory Carter, Nathan Falkenstine and Brayden Blanton.