Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Most collegiate pitchers lock into their position at an earlier age, giving them six to seven years to work on their arm. They work feverishly to improve, learning technical aspects, trying to throw that perfect change up, maintain the right weight through diet and exercise, all with high hopes of becoming the best. Even if the natural ability is there, it takes years of pitching to get to that collegiate level. For Ross Stripling, it took less than a year.
"Even though I started playing baseball when I was six years old, I didn't start pitching until senior year in high school. To be honest, I was more of a football and basketball guy until I broke my leg my last year," said Stripling, a junior from Southlake, Texas. "My doctor told me I couldn't run for four to six months, which went into baseball season. When I started rehab, I would get bored at [baseball] practice and starting messing around on the mound. It was then that I started pitching, big cast on my leg and all."
With some help from his coaches at Carroll High School in Southlake, Stripling started to make a name for himself in a new found position. He went 14-0 on the mound with a 1.60 ERA. He struck out 156 over a stretch of 107 innings, which lead the Dallas/Ft. Worth Area. Stripling earned first-team all-state as he lead his team to a state runner-up finish. During the run in the playoffs, he compiled a perfect 6-0 with a 1.20 ERA. He did all of this in his first and only varsity baseball season.
Graduating from Carroll 11th in his class of over 600 and with summa cum laude distinction, Stripling was awarded the prestigious President's Endowed Scholarship to Texas A&M. It was during his new-student conference that he spoke with head coach Rob Childress for the first time.
"My dad and my high school coach convinced me to go talk to Coach Childress," said Stripling. "I went in there and he actually already knew my name, knew who I was. There was an open roster spot and he offered it to me; I'd have the fall to try out and see if I was good enough to make the team."
"Once I got here, it really blew my mind how little I knew about baseball. It was always a fun sport for me but I didn't have enough knowledge for the college level," explained Stripling. "Coach Childress really took me under his wing and taught me how to pitch, how to be smart on the mound. He changed what I ate, my weight which helped bring on velocity and showed me when to do a changeup. I knew how to throw different pitches but I wasn't baseball savvy until I got around him."
As a freshman, Stripling appeared in 13 games, all in relief. He ranked sixth on the Aggies' pitching staff with a 1-0 record and 2.51 ERA. The righthander's first earned run occurred during his seventh appearance against New Mexico. Later in his freshman campaign, he threw two shutout innings against No. 13 Oklahoma. Over a stretch of 14 innings, Stripling struckout 18 batters while allowing only four to walk. Playing summer ball with the San Luis Obispo (Calif.) Blues of the Sierra Baseball League, he went 2-2 with a 1.96 ERA over 36.2 innings, eliminating 56 batters via strikeout and walking 12.
His sophomore year, Ross worked in the weekend rotation all season and had a team-high 17 starts for the year. He held opposing hitters to a .279 average and claimed a victory in his first career start against Seton Hall. Against No. 17 Oklahoma, he struck out a career-high 11 hitters, following that with back-to-back wins over Nebraska and Dallas Baptist.
During the final weekend of the regular season, Stripling led his team to victory over No. 23 Kansas State, holding the league's top hitting team to one run over seven innings, striking out eight. He pitched a career-high 7.1 innings against Oklahoma State, only allowing eight hits and three runs. Stripling started the Big 12 Championship game against Baylor, holding them to two runs and six hits over six innings, striking out eight again. The Aggies claimed the Big 12 title in extra innings off a walk-off home run.
"I always want to do my best. Whether I'm starting or relieving, whatever situation I am put into, I always want to make sure I put the team in a position to win," said Strpling of his determination.
Well into his junior year, Stripling's highlights thus far have included Big 12 Player of the Week. Against No. 12 Cal Fullerton State, he threw seven shutout innings, only allowing three hits and a pair of walks. He is currently 5-2 with a 2.47 ERA and has his eyes set on capturing another Big 12 title.
Stripling's inspiration comes from his older brother, Hayes Stripling.
"My brother comes to every baseball game and shows me incredible support. He is extremely smart and has taught me a lot over the years and always try and make him proud," said Stripling of his main motivation. "He keeps me humble and reminds me not to take everything too seriously. Not everyone has the opportunity to play college ball and he helps me realize that.
"I try to enjoy every minute out there. It's been awesome to be able to play in front of family and friends and it's just a great sport. Baseball is meant to be fun and I am loving every minute of it."