TUSCON, ARIZONA- For the second time in program history, a Stephen F. Austin baseball player has been tabbed as a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American. Tyler Starks laid claim to that distinction when his name was listed among 15 relief pitchers and closers in a press release issued by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper on Wednesday morning.
Hailing from Mesquite, Texas, the 5’8 left-handed hurler doubled as a starter and a reliever for the ‘Jacks in his inaugural collegiate campaign. In his 24 appearances, Starks compiled a record of 3-3, but was featured predominantly in a late-inning role where he racked up seven saves – the sixth-most among all Southland Conference players and the eighth-most in a single season in program history.
“Going into the spring we didn’t know if Tyler was going to be a guy who could come in and get outs for us, or if we would have to put him in the outfield,” said SFA head coach Johnny Cardenas. “Once we figured out that Dickey, Fikes, McMullen and Michener would solidify our outfield, we gave Tyler the opportunity in our bullpen and he definitely made the most of it. He developed into a guy we could depend on to close things out.”
Starks worked his way through 42 innings and posted an ERA of 3.64 – the second-lowest on the Lumberjacks’ pitching staff. Through those frames, the freshman struck out 45 batters and issued only 15 walks, giving him a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3:1 that ranked second among the SFA ranks.
In his first-ever start at the collegiate level, Starks notched his third win by holding Abilene Christian to three hits and two unearned runs over five innings while sitting down a career-best seven batters via the strikeout.
His seventh and final save came in the Southland Conference Tournament when he kept the ‘Jacks in contention for the SLC Tournament title in an elimination game against Central Arkansas. Following a rain delay of some five hours, the freshman strolled to the hill, fanned six of the seven batters he faced in the last two innings and ended the Bears’ season as SFA won by a score of 10-4.
Starks joins former Lumberjack Erich Lehmann as the only other SFA player to be named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American. Lehmann laid claim to the honor in 2006 and still reigns as the program record holder in categories such as strikeouts (258), strikeouts looking (79) and innings pitched (333.2).