Perkins excited to make return to mound

WKU freshman pitcher Alex Mercer gets loosened up during a preseason practice on Feb. 12. A 6′ 4″ righty, Mercer shows tremendous potential and has a legitimate shot at playing and making an impact this season.

Austin Lanter

Tanner Perkins might be the most excited person for this upcoming WKU baseball season. After being away from baseball for nearly a year now, it’s easy to see why.

Last March, Perkins, a junior from Brodhead, suffered a season-ending injury after just four starts.

The injury should have kept him out for nearly 18 months. However, nine months later he was cleared by doctors, and now, less than a year later, he will be starting for the Toppers.

“It’s usually an 18-month process and he did it in nine months, and that’s a credit to our staff and getting him better, but I think also to him and the makeup of a kid,” coach Matt Myers said. “The day Dr. Andrews did the surgery, his mind was grinding on how quick he could get back.”

Perkins’ quick recovery doesn’t bother Myers, who says he believes Perkins is ready for his start on Sunday.

“I wouldn’t start him if he wasn’t pitching good enough to give us a chance,” Myers said. “We have enough depth that I’d go somewhere else, but he’s good enough right now.”

Perkins attributes his quick turnaround to his drive to be back on the field with the rest of his teammates.

“I know when I went down it was really hard at first, watching the guys go out and compete and me not being there,” he said. “I used that drive every day in therapy this summer. I went in there every day, working to get back on the field with these guys.”

Perkins will be rejoining a deep, experienced pitching staff that features six upperclassmen.

Not only is Perkins excited to be back with his team, but his teammates are excited as well.

“We’ve got five great starting arms,” junior pitcher Justin Hageman said. “With Tanner coming back, that’s just a double whammy.”

Perkins was one of the best pitchers in the league his last full season in 2011. Not only was he named to the second-team All-Sun Belt Conference team, but he led the league in ERA (earned run average) at 2.32.

In his sophomore campaign, Perkins boasted a 7-4 record and ranked among the top 10 in the league in innings pitched, strikeouts, wins and opponents batting average. Perkins is hoping he can be just as effective this season.

“Hopefully, I can get back out there and do what I used to could and maybe even a little bit better so we can get a ring this year,” he said.

Myers believes that Perkins is already at the level that he was two years ago.

“Sometimes with that injury you see the inconsistencies there,” he said. “He’s throwing strikes out there like it was yesterday that he was throwing, and the one thing that he brings to the mound is that competitiveness that our guys know that no matter what he is going to win.”

Although Myers said Perkins is ready for the season and his start on Sunday, the team will continue to monitor him throughout the course of the year. Myers says that main concern is for Perkins to be healthy in the middle of the year when conference play is about to start.

“We’re going to hold him back more than what he wants,” Myers said. “It’s not about what we’re doing Feb. 17 on his start, it’s about what we can have him ready for in May and June.”