COLUMBIA — Jordan Adrian barely remembers the first time he took the pitching mound.
He walked towards the mound at the Daniel Boone Little League field as an eight or nine-year-old. He was doing what every little leaguer wanted to do. But Adrian possessed a natural gift: he is left handed. Adrian does not remember that day very well except that he was excited. Really excited.
Today, Adrian will take the mound wearing the Rock Bridge (4-4) baseball jersey when the Bruins play Hickman at 5 p.m. at Rock Bridge field. The game, originally scheduled for Thursday, was moved to today due to pending bad weather.
“I try not to think about the game,” Adrian said. “Thinking is only going to make me more nervous.”
A lot of things have changed since he first climbed the mound. Adrian started pitching a slider at age 10, then a curve ball at around age 12 and then finally a change-up his freshman year.
“I’ve worked a lot on location,” Adrian said. “I worked on being more accurate.”
Adrian noticed improvement when he started throwing his pitches harder while not losing any consistency as he got older. The Rock Bridge coaches have noticed something about Adrian. He throws better when he has a little arm fatigue.
“He thinks when he is full of energy that he can overpower people,” Rock Bridge pitching coach Ron Widbin said. “He isn’t a flame-throwing left hander.”
To create this arm fatigue for today’s game, Adrian started Monday’s game at Kirksville and the coaching staff limited him to 25 pitches in the hope that he wouldn’t feel like Superman on the mound after eight days of rest.
The reason the coaches like for Adrian to feel a little arm fatigue is because he does not overpower batters.
“Sometimes we’ll call an off-speed pitch when we’re behind in the count,” Widbin said. “When they’re sitting fastball and they see that (off-speed) pitch sometimes they’ll just pop it up.”
Even one of Rock Bridge’s catchers knows Adrian’s key to success.
“He keeps the ball down and causes a lot of ground balls,” senior Kevin Gribble said. “He also gets a lot of strikeouts.”
Like every pitcher, Adrian has had his moments where his best stuff just isn’t cutting it.
“I feel bad for my team but I have to get past it,” Adrian said. “When I give up a bomb, I just get angrier for the next batter.”
The coaches have another approach for recognizing when a pitcher is in trouble on the mound.
“We teach them to keep their body language positive,” Widbin said. “But we can see it from the dugout when it goes bad.”
While Adrian doesn’t remember the first time he climbed the mound, he does remember the first time he climbed the mound at the Rock Bridge field. It was last season against Blue Springs South, a suburban Kansas City school. It was the first time he appeared in a varsity game as a pitcher. His heart pumped rapidly as he lifted his left leg off the mound.
“I was really nervous,” Adrian said. “Sometimes I like pitching on the road because there’s less pressure.”