Ryan Rigby began throwing sidearm on a whim during his junior year at Kosciusko High School.
Rigby occasionally used the delivery when playing shortstop and integrated it into his arsenal on the mound.
The right-hander finally decided to give it a shot during a particularly long at bat in which a hitter kept fouling off his pitches. He dropped down and the batter swung and missed for strike three.
Rigby continued to throw sidearm with two strikes for the next two years and on into his freshman season at East Mississippi Community College. He had so much success that his coaches at EMCC finally just told him to drop down exclusively.
“I finally just got to where I stuck with it,” Rigby said.
Rigby went on to record a team-low 0.90 earned run average for the Lions going 3-1 with five saves while striking out 24 in 30 innings of work during his lone season in Scooba.
Rigby’s new delivery caught the eye of former Mississippi State pitching coach Butch Thompson, who is considered one of the premier minds when it comes to that style. Although Rigby and Thompson only spent one fall together, he was able to pick up a lot of knowledge during that short span.
“He was one of the main reasons I came here because he specialized in sidearm (pitchers),” Rigby said. “He taught me a lot of stuff.”
MSU was able to secure his signature although other SEC programs such as Vanderbilt and Ole Miss had also offered him scholarships.
“I obviously wanted to come here,” Rugby said. “I only live 45 minutes down the road. I’ve always liked Mississippi State baseball with the outfield, you can’t beat it. Once State started talking to me, I pretty much committed right then.”
Rigby was able to put his sidearm delivery to work during the spring and became one of the Bulldogs’ most reliable relievers. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder posted a 5-1 record with one save and a 2.25 ERA. He struck out 43 and walked 13 in 48 innings and opposing hitters batted just .211 against him.
“I felt like my job last spring was to come in and get ground balls when it was a ground ball situation or double play situation,” Rigby said. “I felt like that was my role, to get a ground ball and let my defense work behind me in pressure situations. I loved the pressure and that’s what I fed off of and was pretty good at it I guess.”
Although he had already played a year in college before arriving in Starkville, Rigby admits that pitching in juco cannot compare to what things are like in the Southeastern Conference.
“Coming from juco, things were a lot different here – a lot more fans and a lot more pressure,” Rigby said.
Rigby relied mostly on his fastball and slider last spring. Over the summer, he worked on adding a change-up while pitching for the Cotuit Kettleers in the prestigious Cape Cod League.
In 11 outings, Rigby was 1-3 with one save and a 2.16 ERA, 12 strikeouts and six walks in 16 2/3 innings.
“It was an awesome experience,” Rugby said. “I made a lot of good friends and my coach was awesome. It was just a good learning experience all the way around.”