Former BL Star Eric Hungerford Shines as College Hurler. Story by John Torsiello.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
Former Shepaug High School star Eric Hungerford is thriving as a starting pitcher for the Gettysburg College (Pa.) baseball team.
After a standout career at the Washington School, Hungerford has emerged as the Bullets’ top starter.
The junior, who is in Florida as his team prepares for its regular season by playing games against schools from around the country, was 5-4 with a 4.65 earned run average as a freshman, and then blossomed his sophomore season when he was named Second Team All-Centennial Conference and Third-Team All-Region by the American Baseball Coaches Association. He finished 7-1 with a 2.52 ERA, five complete games, and three shutouts last year.
Among his best starts was a six-hit complete game in an 8-1 win over third-ranked Johns Hopkins, a three-hit shutout with eight strikeouts in a 1-0 victory at Dickinson, and a career-high 10-strikeout performance over six scoreless innings of relief in a 4-2 win over Rockford. He strung together a 22 and two-thirds-innings scoreless streak early in the season. He was a three-time Centennial Conference Pitcher of the Week selection.
Hungerford, from New Preston, is living up to his billing as a “Player to Watch” this season by the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. He went the distance Friday in a 4-2 win over Wisconsin Lutheran, allowing just four hits and fanning nine batters. He preceded that effort by pitching a complete game earlier in the week in an 8-3 win over Skidmore College, pitching seven innings of two-hit ball, while striking out eight and walking only one.
“I’ve loved it at Gettysburg (a Division III school) so far, I’m definitely in the right place,” said Hungerford this week. “Academically it’s definitely a challenge but I’ve been able to handle it well. The baseball has also been great. I was lucky enough to come in as a freshman and pitch right away. Off the field, the team is a lot of fun. It’s a great group of guys and we have a good time with each other.”
Hungerford enjoyed a stellar athletic and academic career at Shepaug. He posted close to a 2.00 ERA in his three seasons with the Spartan varsity and hit around .360. He was a two-time All-Berkshire League selection, and was 9-1 as a pitcher his junior year. He also played basketball and soccer for the Washington school. He also earned academic all-star honors and was a member of the National Honor Society. He talked about his success as a collegiate hurler.
“I’ve definitely improved, not only physically but mentally. In college I’ve been able to focus just on pitching, so I think my arm has gotten stronger and I’ve been able to develop my pitches and get comfortable with them. Mentally, I’ve learned how to handle adversity better than I did in high school.”
He said that as a freshman he “got hit around a little bit” but his coach (John Campo) kept him in the rotation and he learned to work through tough innings.
“I also started throwing two-seam fastballs more so that none of my pitches are flat and it helped me get a lot of outs last year.”
Hungerford’s fastball has topped out at around 87miles an hour, and consistently sits around the low- to mid-80’s. His main pitches are a two- and four-seam fastball, a curveball, and a changeup.
“The reason I like pitching, especially starting pitching, is because when you start a game on the mound that is your game. Your team is counting on you to perform well and give it a good chance to win. It can be a lot of pressure but that’s what makes it fun, and when you get a win on the mound there’s no better feeling.”
The 5-10, 173-pound righty said there was a period of transition he had to make coming from high school to collegiate ball.
“Every lineup I faced in college was solid from top to bottom and filled with really good hitters. I had to learn how to hit my spots more consistently and create more movement on my pitches in order to get outs, which was an adjustment that didn’t happen overnight. The whole learning experience has made me a better pitcher though.”
He said his primary goal coming into this season is to win a conference championship. The Bullets were 30-13 overall and 13-5 in the conference in 2013.
“We fell just short last year in the playoffs, which left a bitter taste in our mouths and we have a lot of talent from last year’s team back. We feel we have a very good shot at the league if we play like we’re capable of. Individually, I’d like to pitch well enough to give my team a good chance to win in every game I start, which ideally would mean not losing a start.”
Hungerford is an Organizational Management Studies major.
“I’ve been able to take a lot of different types of classes since it’s a liberal arts college, which has been interesting. The courses are pretty rigorous and you have to put in a lot of work but it’s manageable.”
Hungerford’s in-season training is a combination of cardio conditioning and strengthening his throwing muscles and legs.
“I also throw every day, whether it is long tossing or a bullpen, depending on when I’m scheduled to pitch. In the off season I try to work out as much as I can, I play summer ball and fall ball when I get back to school, and in the winter I throw a few times to prepare for the preseason.”
While he would like to get a shot at playing professionally he calls it “not very realistic.”
For now he’s taking the ball every three or four days and trying to help Gettysburg take home a title. And that is just fine with him.