Eberle growing into role as C-N starting pitcher

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn.--  After appearing in only 10 contests throughout the course his first two seasons in Mossy Creek, junior pitcher Ryan Eberle (Cookeville, Tenn.) is growing into his own in what is now the hurler's third year in the Eagle program.

An All-District selection his junior and senior seasons at Cookeville High, Eberle sported an impressive resume coming into Carson-Newman after compiling a high school tape of a 14-2 record, 1.14 ERA and 90 strikeouts.

The mathematics major looked to make an immediate impact on the field for the Eagles to begin his collegiate stint, but things did not go as according to plan and Eberle endured minimal action and success his first few years on campus.

As a true freshman in 2014, Eberle appeared in six games while making three starts for Carson-Newman. While only facing 33 batters and completing eight innings of work, the right-handed hurler struggled with his command by posting a 5.62 ERA and yielding five earned runs. His six strikeouts on the year conflicted with the five issued walks as the Cookeville, Tenn. native ended the year with a 1-1 record.

Primarily used as a reliever, in parts due to the good play from former C-N starting pitchers Quinton Yocom, Jaime Miller and current teammate Vince Apicella (Dillsburg, Pa.), the innings pitched grew to only an inning and a third at 9.2 for Eberle's 2015 campaign. Though, as a sophomore, things began to improve as the ERA lowered to 3.72 and the batters faced increased to 45 to round out a 1-0 record on the season.

Prior to the start of the 2016 season, the junior's expectations began to rise as Eberle was penciled in to be one of Carson-Newman's mid-week starters throughout the season.  

That mindset was altered a bit when the pitcher tossed a then career high of 6.1 innings of eight strikeout ball for the Eagles in their season-debut at Limestone on Feb. 2. The starting pitcher ended the contest with a no decision but certainly gained the confidence that day that his coaches and teammates have been noticing over the past month.   

"It is always nice to see your hard work pay off," Eberle said. "I just hope that I can continue to go out there and pitch my best and do whatever I can to help my team out whether that to be a weekend start or a week day start, relief or whatever they need from me."

Eight days later Eberle would get the nod again as Carson-Newman was looking to end their season-opening four-game losing skid with a mid-week road trip to Shorter. The junior put on a show by posting his first career complete game after completing nine innings of three-run ball to enable the Eagles to pick up the elusive first win of the season with the 6-3 defeat of the Hawks.  

"I think our coaches have done a really good job of emphasizing to me the importance of locating pitches," Eberle said. "I don't throw exceedingly hard compared to some of the pitchers on our team. It is important for me to be spot on with my pitches and to also use my off-speed pitches in any count whether I be ahead or behind of a batter."

Now 11 games into the pitcher's junior year, Eberle has positioned himself to be one of Carson-Newman's weekend starters and a staple point moving forward for coach Tom Griffin's club.

Eberle credits his success and strong play early on into this season to first-year pitching coach Mark  Allen Bounds who joined the Carson-Newman coaching last fall after spending the past two seasons with Columbia State Community College.  

"I think the important thing that I have taken away from Coach Bounds is the importance of being your own pitcher," Eberle said. "He doesn't want us to change what we do too much but it's more of a fine-tuning thing. He does a really good job of being hands on with us and being really involved with us throughout practice. He has done a fantastic job through the fall and so far this spring by getting the staff ready and prepared for every game." 

The junior's line thus far into 2016 reads four appearances and three starts for 21 innings of 12 run baseball. Eberle has posted 17 strikeouts compared to only 10 walks on the season and has already surpassed the total amount of batters the hurler faced throughout his first two seasons (78) to 91 batters so far into his junior campaign.

Thriving on a decent fastball, an off-paced changeup and a sneaky curveball, Eberle sports a respectable resume and one that coaches and batters around the league will need to prepare for when South Atlantic Conference play begins on March 4.

After a slow start the season, Carson-Newman has battled back and now are a game over the .500 record at 6-5 entering Saturday's play against McKendree. If the Eagles are looking to make a run to the SAC tournament and beyond they will certainly be relying on Eberle and his strong play of late.

"We knew that we were going to be a good ball club coming in. We have just kept battling and now we have won five of our last six games," Eberle said. "You see the results pay off. It's process over results. You keep working through the process and the results will show for themselves."

The right-handed pitcher's next challenge will come on Saturday afternoon when Eberle will be called on to pitch game two of a double header against the Bearcats at the Silver Diamond Baseball Complex.