Nietfeldt emerges as ace for GVSU baseball

Nietfeldt emerges as ace for GVSU baseball

Jay Bushen

The first time he boarded an airplane, he jumped from it. He’s a skydiving, strike-throwing, out-garnering right-hander who seemingly fell from the sky and onto the Grand Valley State University baseball team.

Junior transfer Evan Nietfeldt, who was tabbed as the GLIAC Pitcher of the Week on Monday, has hit the ground running since making the jump from the NJCAA to the NCAA in the offseason.

Nietfeldt’s leap to Division II baseball has been a work in progress ever since his freshman campaign at South Suburban College under coach Steve Ruzich in South Holland, Ill.

“When we first got him, he was such a project,” Ruzich said. “He was raw. His freshman year he was okay, but the one thing was he really bought into doing the extra work, just constantly working out in the weight room and doing the extra stuff he was supposed to do.”

Nietfeldt began to tack on mass in the winter months after his rookie season, and it paid off. He went 5-3 with a 2.80 ERA on his way to being named a Region IV All-Region honoree in 2013.

Since landing in Allendale, his progression has skyrocketed since he started throwing from the stretch rather than the windup and learning to consistently locate his fastball near the bottom of the zone.

“One of the things he has done an extremely good job of is keeping his pitch count down per inning,” GVSU coach Jamie Detillion said. “In the offseason, we worked on a couple of things mechanically to help him out just to get his body and arm in shape.”

The 2014 stat lines have been ridiculous.

Nietfeldt (5-0) has surrendered less than six hits in each of his six starts this season. His five wins are tied for the most in the GLIAC, while his ERA (0.90) is the lowest among pitchers with more than one start.

“He’s become a great leader on our pitching staff, he throws strikes and he competes” Detillion said. “He’s not striking out a ton of guys, but we’re more interested in getting outs than strikeouts.”

In his last 34 innings of work, the Homewood, Ill. product has given up only one earned run.

His fastball, which is most often delivered in the high 80s, ends up in strike zone more often than not. In fact, he has walked just 10 batters in 40 innings pitched this season.

“Obviously looking at his numbers there, he must have cut down on the walk scenarios and he’s getting down on the hitters,” Ruzich said. “He’s very intelligent, he’s one of the smartest guys we had — very knowledgeable of the game.”

The arsenal includes more than a fastball.

His roommate and fellow pitcher Kevin Hallberg — who also came over to GVSU from SSC — said Nietfeldt’s slider isn’t his only secondary pitch.

“He’s got a plus change-up that can devastate hitters,” Hallberg said. “He throws strikes and gets ground balls. He’s a strike thrower — a full package.”

Nietfeldt, a film major and part-time adrenaline junkie, has certainly appeared to a complete pitcher thus far in a limited sample size.

He’s got the stats of a rock-star ace, but his knack for racking up outs is rooted in the trust he has for not only his teammates, but also his stuff.

“I just go out there, clear my mind and throw the ball — I don’t think,” Nietfeldt said. “Individually, my goal is just to give my team a chance to win.”