Iowa’s Wes Freie coming back on the mound

BY RYAN YOUNG | MARCH 30, 2009 7:30 AM

For over two years, Iowa pitcher Wes Freie was forced to learned how to pitch without picking up a baseball.

Coming off a stellar senior season in high school, arm troubles his first year on campus keep him away the mound and in the dugout.

Not only that, but the 6-3, 215-pound product of Wilton, Iowa, said he couldn’t even swing a bat until his sophomore season, when he played first and became the Hawkeyes’ designated hitter for the subsequent 2007 and 2008 seasons.

Despite the two-year hiatus from pitching, though, Freie said he enjoys toeing the rubber now that his arm is healthy. In the meantime, he’s only shaking off a little bit of rust, which came into play slightly on Sunday.

“Just got to get the feel back a little bit more,” he said of his performance against Michigan on Sunday. “I have a feel for pitching, but I’m not really executing pitches today as I have in the past.”
Indeed, the senior hurler appeared to lose his feel quickly against the Wolverines, allowing five runs on nine hits through just 31⁄3 innings in the Hawkeyes’ disappointing 7-5 loss.

In the game’s early innings, Freie seemed poised to capture his third win of the year, surrendering just a pair of singles in the first two frames while striking out three batters.

But a four-hit, two-run third marked him for defeat as he handed the job over to junior left-hander Michael Jacobs midway through the fourth after allowing the Wolverines to tie the game, 3-3, before later tallying two more runs for the lead.

“His legs weren’t under him,” junior catcher Tyson Blaser. “His stuff wasn’t as sharp as it’s been. It happens sometimes. In pitching, you’re not always going to go out there and have your ‘A’ stuff.
“You know, from catching him, I know when he’s on, and he wasn’t on. But he still pitched well, I thought. I thought he pitched his butt off.”

That type of mentality was what made Freie a gem of a player for Iowa head coach Jack Dahm three years ago — along with a near-90 mph fastball, a sharp curve, and a nasty offshoot of a split fastball.

Freie signed with the Hawkeyes as an absolute diamond stud, earning both 2A Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year honors at the end of his senior season in addition to being heralded as the No. 2 prospect in the state. Perfect Game USA rated the pitcher/third baseman as a likely major-league draft pick during that time.

With such high status, though, Dahm said Freie came to Iowa with unfair pressure and super-human expectations. Early on, it was believe he would become the savior of the Hawkeyes’ beleaguered program.

It wasn’t until last season that Dahm notice Freie’s lively arm coming around and had the veteran working on his pitching in the off-season.

“Wes really embraced pitching,” the sixth-year Iowa coach said. “He went out and had fun this summer, had a chance to throw a little bit, and I think he is going to be a very solid starter in this league.

“I think he can have a lot of success for us, and we just need to make sure he continues to get himself into pitching shape.”

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