STARKVILLE – Mississippi State’s Zac Houston only had an opportunity to pitch in four games this past season.
But those four outings did a lot for the true freshman’s development and prepared him for what he hopes to be a promising future for the Bulldogs.
“I got a taste of it and I know what it feels like to go out there in a pressure situation and have to get some outs,” Houston said. “All those outings are going to increase me. I have the entire summer to prepare myself. I know what it feels like and I can keep building off of that and also get better and stronger so that when I have a major role next year I’ll know what to do.”
Houston (0-0, 3.00 ERA) ended the spring with three innings of work allowing four hits, one run and walk and two strikeouts.
The 6-foot-5, 234-pound right-hander from Poplarville made his collegiate debut Feb. 25 against Mount St. Mary’s. Houston hurled a perfect inning of relief including his first career strikeout.
“The first time I went out there I had the jitters and it was really special,” Houston said. “It was more than I ever expected.”
2014 was more of a learning year for Houston. Not only did he replace his change-up with a splitter, pitching coach Butch Thompson worked extensively with him to control his fastball and slider more effectively as well.
The hard work appears to be paying off this summer in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. In eight relief outings, Houston is 1-0 with a 1.92 ERA, 18 strikeouts and 10 walks in 14 frames for the Plymouth Pilgrims.
Houston was also named the NECBL Pitcher of the Week earlier this month.
As a high school senior, Houston posted a 5-2 record with a 2.93 ERA fanning 74 batters in 55 innings. But he quickly found out college was on another level.
“It’s completely different than high school,” Houston said. “There it was just about getting the ball over the plate. In college you have to make a pitch and own it. You have to be able to put a ball an inch this way which could be the difference between an out and a home run. It’s a huge difference that I’ve had to adjust to.”
Houston was heavily recruited out of high school and was considered the top right-handed pitcher in the Magnolia State by Perfect Game in 2013. He held offers from Ole Miss, LSU and Southern Miss but it was a visit to Starkville that sealed his signature.
“When I started going on my visits, like to Ole Miss and Southern Miss, I’d get a sense maybe I belonged there,” Houston said. “But whenever I came on my visit (to MSU) I felt like I was home. I’d really found where I was supposed to be. Between the coaching staff and players that I play with, I don’t see any place being better than this.”