Sunday Thriver

March 5, 2012

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

Filthy is a term in baseball jargon to describe a pitcher whose stuff is almost un-hittable.

Turns out dusty isn’t so bad either.

In Georgia Tech Baseball circles “dusty” is becoming a term that means almost un-hittable on Sundays.

The “dusty” in this case is Tech’s Sunday pitcher, sophomore right-hander Dustin “Dusty” Isaacs.

“I want to go out there every time I’m on the mound and give my team a chance to win,” he said. “It’s the attitude I had last year out of the bullpen. It’s the same one I have now. I want to make every pitch the best one I can and put the rest of the guys in position to win.”

So far, the sophomore from Lebanon, Ohio, has done just that. In three starts he is 3-0, with a 2.89 ERA (six earned runs in 18 2/3 innings). He’s allowed 13 hits, while striking out 13 and has pitched into the sixth inning in all three starts, not allowing more than two runs in any of them.

Isaacs was impressive once again his last time out on Sunday against Rutgers.

The powerful righty stymied the Scarlet Knights and wowed the crowd, turning “The Rusty C” into his own personal showplace — call it “The Dusty C.”

He cruised through four shutout innings, battled through a tough fifth, where he recorded an inning-ending strikeout to strand the tying- and go-ahead runs in scoring position, then put out RU 1-2-3 in the sixth, his final inning.

Holding Rutgers at bay was paramount Sunday, as the Jackets, who’d scored 49 runs over its previous four games, could only push across three over the first six (Tech would eventually score three more in the seventh, once he left the game.).

For Dusty Isaacs, holding the opposition where it is has been is what he’s done since he came to Georgia Tech, choosing Atlanta over Rookie Ball in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization after the Pirates drafted him in the 50th round of the 2010 June Draft.

It hasn’t always been easy, as last season, Isaacs pitched out of the bullpen for the first time in his life. The move required a transition, but was one he was willing to make to pitch on the collegiate level.

“Last year, as long as I got to play I didn’t care,” he said. “Being a freshman, I was really fortunate to get some valuable experience and pitching in some pretty big games.”

He not only pitched, he quite effectively. Isaacs tied Luke Bard for the team lead in appearances with 25, while throwing to a 2.72 ERA (11 earned runs in 36 1/3 innings), striking out 40, while walking only 13.

Following his successful rookie season, Isaacs met with Head Coach Danny Hall, who saw him as a potential addition to the rotation for 2012. At Hall’s suggestion, Isaacs went to pitch in the Great Lakes Summer League to get his arm stretched out and strong enough to start.

He was 6-1 in 11 games, including seven starts — two of the non-starts were an exhibition game and the league’s All-Star Game, in which he got the win — with a 2.33 ERA with the Hamilton Joes, striking out 53 in 46 1/3 innings, allowing 31 hits and 22 walks.

“it wasn’t the [Cape Cod League] but it was still a solid league,” he said. “I knew I wanted to really stretch myself out and work on developing my breaking balls. That’s what I did. A lot of the times when it was a fastball count I would force myself to throw a curveball or force myself to throw a slider just to build more repetition and to build more confidence throughout the whole summer and come into the fall a more well-rounded pitcher. Just keep hitters on their toes and be less predictable.”

About the only thing that’s been predictable about Isaacs since he’s been inserted into the Sunday slot, following in the shoes of past Sunday starters Zach Von Tersch, Brandon Cumpton, Jed Bradley and Buck Farmer, is that he’s going to pitch into the sixth inning and not allow a whole lot.

Readjusting to starting hasn’t been a problem.

“It’s kind of like riding a bike,” he said. “Growing up I always was a starter. I really enjoy going out there and setting my own tempo and being able to put my own stamp on the game from the get-go.”

Isaacs took extra relish in putting a stamp on his first two starts, as the Ohio native took out Kent State and Ohio State.

“I saw on the schedule that Ohio State would be coming down and with Kent State, it was pretty cool for me,” he said. “I faced a few of those guys in high school and in summer ball growing up. To play them again in college is pretty neat.”

Although he admits he is still an Ohio State Football fan, Isaacs admitted beating the Buckeyes was especially thrilling.

“That was the one school in Ohio that didn’t recruit me,” he said. “They had a different coach. I kind of went into that game with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, with something to prove. But their new coach, I’ve heard nothing but good things from the guys there. It’s good to see they’re kind of turning it around.”

Not that he helped that, shackling the Buckeyes over 5 2/3 innings, allowing five hits and three runs (all earned) in the 13-4 victory.

Isaacs won’t be facing any more Ohio schools, nor will he be facing the University of Georgia, something he did three times last season. While he’ll miss the latter — he admitted the rivalry helped convince him to go to school at Georgia Tech — he is looking forward to ACC action, and being part of a rotation that has already come together and is pushing each other to get better.

“Buck’s our horse and [Matt] Grimes is a great guy to have on Saturday,” he said. “I’m just trying to chase them, keep up with them. I’ve learned a lot from them, as far as how to carry yourself. It’s definitely good as a measuring stick trying to keep up with Buck [Faremr] and Matt. It’s good for all of us to push each other and that’s what we’ve done so far.”

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