Throughout his college career, Appalachian State pitcher Taylor Thurber has found himself thrust into many roles: starter, closer, middle reliever, set-up man.
That versatility has made Thurber – a 2011 Lake Norman High graduate – one of the busiest pitchers on the Mountaineers’ staff the past three seasons, and he’s become one of the best in the Sun Belt Conference through the opening weeks of the 2015 season.
“He embraces any role you give him,” Appalachian State pitching coach Michael Rogers said. “That’s one of the main reasons why he’s successful. Whether he’s starting or coming out of the pen, it’s all about getting out there.
“Taylor really embraces every role we put him in – and there are a lot of roles we put him in – but 99 percent of the time, when we put Taylor out there, we know what we’re going to get from him.”
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Thurber leads the conference in ERA (0.42) and earned runs allowed (one) through March 7, and is also among league’s the top 10 in opponent batting average, runs allowed and extra-base hits allowed.
That puts Thurber on track to post the best ERA by an Appalachian State pitcher since Jon Dolecki’s school-record 0.58 ERA in 1969.
“So far, so good,” Thurber said. “I’ve made a few adjustments from last year. I’ve had some success with it so far.”
This season, Thurber – a 5-foot-10, 180-pound right-hander – has appeared in eight of Appalachian State’s 15 games, with two starts. He went five innings and got the win against Wake Forest on Feb. 25, and threw six innings in a win over High Point on March 3.
That’s a big turnaround for Thurber ( 2-2) from last season, when he went 1-7 with a 4.60 ERA. He led the team that season in appearances (24), relief innings pitched (43.0) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.8-to-1), but Thurber felt there was improvements that needed to be made.
“It was a disappointing year,” Thurber said. “I had run into some bad luck at times, but I think I’ve put that behind me now. I definitely had to make some adjustments and make them quick, just to get some confidence back in myself.”
The Mountaineers’ coaches have always had confidence in Thurber, as evidenced by his workload. His 59 career appearances – 50 coming the past two seasons – put him 10 shy of breaking into Appalachian State’s top 10.
“He’s always striving to get better in all aspects of his pitching,” Rogers said. “Last year was kind of tough on him. I don’t think he was too happy with his performance. He made a conscious effort this summer and coming into the fall that it wasn’t going to happen again. He’s been showing that.
“Taylor has the attitude that no matter what the situation may be, he’s ready for it. I talk to all our pitchers before games and ask how they’re doing, but I sometimes don’t even ask Taylor because I know he’s ready to go. When I do ask, he just smiles. That’s all I need to know.”
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Bill? Email him at email@example.com.