Illinois Valley pitcher gets a grip, grows into triple threat
Ross Weber changed up his pitching repertoire this season — literally.
A sophomore right-handed starting pitcher for Illinois Valley Community College (IVCC) and LaSalle-Peru High School alumnus, Weber told the Illinois Valley Times that he threw a changeup approximately 10 times all of last season -- his first with IVCC.
One summer of intensive work on his changeup later, Weber had a third pitch in his arsenal that he said has made him “a whole different pitcher.”
It is hard to argue statistically. Through May 3, Weber was 3-1 with a 3.79 earned-run average. He had notched four complete games, which ranked him sixth in Division III of the National Junior College Athletic Association, and averaged 10.93 strikeouts per nine innings, which was 27th. His total of 49 strikeouts placed 47th.
Compare that with last season, when Weber pitched 23 innings and notched 20 strikeouts with a 6.65 ERA, an 0-1 record and no complete games.
His changeup — in which the ball is held with a grip like an "OK" hand signal — was something he had thrown before, but he could not throw it with much accuracy. In the offseason, he worked on the grip constantly.
“I just kept playing catch with it,” he said. “Every time I would play catch in the winter I would make sure it was the changeup grip so that I would eventually get the hang of it.”
That changeup combined with his four-seam fastball — which is delivered at a speed in the mid- to-upper 80s, he said — and his curveball. Weber said he also began preseason bullpen work around mid- to late January, which is earlier than before. That way, he would be more in baseball shape earlier in the season.
He also played for a travel team — the District 20 Mules — which his father, also named Ross, coaches. That is appropriate for Weber, given that his father got him into baseball and taught him how to have a good time with the sport — a huge factor for playing to Weber, whether it comes from teammates, coaches or the intensity of a game.
“To me, the most important thing about baseball is just to have fun," he said. "Make sure you enjoy it so that you want to keep playing. As long as it's fun, then I like it.”
Weber said he is deciding between Eureka College and Robert Morris-Peoria for where to take his game to the next level. Eureka is an NCAA Division II school in Eureka, while Robert Morris-Peoria plays in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, or NAIA.