Year by year a player competes in a season that is the product of the hard work that college athletes must endure to become the best that he or she can be. Seniors have the best and the worst of the season because it’s their chance to cap the career that they have been working at, but it could also be their last games played.
Being lucky enough to continue playing a sport you love after college is a privilege, and former Northeastern State pitcher Trevor Walch is not taking it for granted. The Eufaula native has decided to continue his career, as he recently signed a contract to pitch for the Evansville Otters out of Indiana. The Otters are a member of the West Division of the Frontier League, an independent baseball league which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball.
Walch learned of a tryout for the San Diego Padres in San Antonio, and it turned out to be the shot he was looking for. His decision did not go unnoticed as he was approached by impressed scouts and was signed by the Otters to a two-year contract. The second year of the deal is a club option, and his salary was not disclosed in an email to team officials.
“We look forward to having Trevor as a key contributor to our bullpen,” said Otters manager Andy McCauley. “We hope he can throw a lot of strikes and bring the gap from our starter down to our closer.”
Walch signed his contract on July 6 and made his debut for the club against the Florence Freedom July 10. He threw one inning of relief work and gave up two walks and a hit. Most importantly, he was able to pitch out of the jam and did not concede a run. He also threw 2 2/3 innings against the Freedom July 11 and again went scoreless. He allowed four walks and one hit, but nobody touched home plate.
“It’s a reality check. The pace is faster than what I experienced in college,” said Walch said of playing in the professional ranks.
Walch, anxious to play, said his first pitch for the Otters was drilled right back at him.
“My collegiate experience has helped me gain consistency in my pitching,” said Walch. “I’m glad I didn’t go straight to the majors out of high school because college helped me develop as a player.”
He attended Oklahoma State University out of high school and transferred to Georgia Perimeter College before finishing up his career at NSU with his younger brother, Hayden.
"I think this is a great opportunity and a well-deserved opportunity for Trevor,” Northeastern State coach Travis Janssen said. “He was as good as anybody in the MIAA down the stretch this past season. I anticipate that he'll do very well for Evansville. We're proud of him for earning this opportunity.”
Walch led the MIAA and finished 12th in the NCAA with 10 saves as a senior. Despite being converted to the closer role early in the season, he still managed to finish fourth in the conference in strikeouts (72) and 11th in innings pitched (71). He also finished third in opposing batting average (.236) and was named to the All-MIAA Second Team.
Walch, being an upperclassman in the past, is now the low man on the totem pole. “Rookie”, as his Otter teammates call him, is responsible for carrying a Hello Kitty backpack around to earn his stripes for the team.
But besides the small amount of heckling he has received, his new teammates have taught him some new tips for the league. He was told to walk off the mound into the dugout, to “have swagger” so they said. In college, Walch was accustomed to jogging off the field to indicate hustle.
“I’m one of a couple on my team that hasn’t played AAA ball or played in the majors,” said Walch. “Pitching in front of 4,000-plus fans is different than the crowds I’m used to seeing in MIAA ballparks. It’s very easy to tell if you’re doing good or not judging by the crowd.”
Walch is scheduled to receive a degree from Northeastern State in health and human performance sometime in the next year.