Amory players and coaches like to kid around with their 6-foot-4, 215-pound junior pitcher, but they enjoy just as much having Will Cox start on the mound.
Cox posted a 13-1 record with a 0.72 earned-run average this season to lead the Panthers to the MHSAA Class 4A state championship series. The right-hander, who entered the state finals with a 0.46 ERA, lost Game 1, 5-4, to St. Stanislaus, which went on to sweep the best-of-three series.
That was just one negative outing in the 19 games and 962⁄3 innings he pitched this season. The 17-year-old won five of his team’s 10 postseason games.
“I think he was,” Amory catcher Zack Randolph said, asked if Cox was the best pitcher he had seen this season, “because he located his slider a lot better than anybody else.”
His 142 strikeouts against 11 walks and 62 hits goes to show how dominant he was on the mound.
And he batted a team-high .422 with a team-best five home runs and 35 RBIs.
Because of his brilliance on both the mound and at the plate, Cox is the 2010 Daily Journal Player of the Year.
Cox’s junior season was indeed a breakout year, especially his 0-5 start from a year ago.
“He was not in shape when he started the season last year,” said Amory head coach Chad Williams. “He got in shape about midway through the season.
“I thought he did a great job for us last year at the end. We thought he was our best pitcher at the end of last year’s season,” said Williams, who expected Cox to be his team’s No.1 starter this season. “He stepped up and filled that role.”
What really helped Cox take off was when former major league pitcher Brian Maxcy taught the Amory right-hander how to throw a slider.
“That’s the bread-and-butter pitch,” said Cox, who throws a changeup to offset his 89 mile-per-hour fastball. “It’s the one I always have to go to when I need a big strike or a big strikeout.”
Cox, who recently visited Mississippi State and Ole Miss, added that he is hoping to add an effective curveball to his repertoire next season.
Cox was well-rested come playoff time, which proved beneficial to Amory advancing in the playoffs. Amory’s No. 1 starter threw 421⁄3 innings in the postseason, allowing only seven earned runs.
“Everybody always asked me, now and towards the end of the season, if my arm was going to fall off because of that,” Cox said. “I didn’t really throw that many innings until the playoffs, and when the playoffs rolled around, I knew I had to keep my arm in good shape. ...
“I don’t know. It always felt good. I guess that’s what happens when you take care of it.”
And once he began relying more on his team’s exceptional defense rather than trying to strike everyone out, Amory was in prime position to win.
“There were a few times where he did get a little bit rattled and he didn’t have his stuff,” Williams said. “And he understood that he then had to go out and rely on his defense.”
Even though it was his right arm delivering the pitches that retire opposing batters, Cox had to give a lot of credit to the one calling the pitches – his catcher, Randolph.
“With him calling pitches,” Cox said of his battery mate, “it’s going to be huge with him leaving. Next year, it’s going to feel weird.
“There’s no comparison with catchers around here.”
Williams said Amory’s senior all-area catcher was not only responsible for calling pitches, but was a significant reason reason why Cox was so successful in 2010.
“Will Cox is not as good without that guy behind the plate,” Williams said.