Slider like Strider

How Gage Gillott uses fastball slider combo and bat to become top player in PSAC-West

Published by Aidan Treu, Date: May 2, 2024
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In baseball, an elite earned run average (ERA) is anything below three. Elite hitters will often have an on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) over .900. Any player that can bring either of those numbers to a team is moving the needle immensely.

Gage Gillott hits both of those marks and has the volume to back up the statistics.

36 games into The Rock’s season, Gillott has started every one as a hitter and started nine on the mound. Over that span, the right-hander has surpassed the golden .300/.400/.500 slash line and sits at .374/.415/.515 which is good for a .930 OPS.

His 99 at bats are fourth most for the White and Green, and the margin is not large.

As a pitcher, Gillott leads SRU in innings pitched with 56.1 and is the proud owner of a sparkling 1.12 ERA. He hits all the other marks of a great pitcher as well, clocking in at just about one strikeout per inning and just under one baserunner allowed per inning.

The pitching numbers come as no surprise. Gillott has been perfecting his craft for a long time.

“I started pitching when I was eight years old around coach pitch in little league,” Gillott said.

At Connellsville High School, the two-way star lettered four times in baseball and football as well as three times in basketball.

The Connellsville, PA native is a physical pitcher. Some pitchers get by without adding much muscle and simply using their length, flexibility and mechanics to get hitters out. Gillott is no slouch when it comes to mechanics, but he was always going to be a physical athlete regardless of the sport or position he ended up in.

Gillott took note of this himself and as a result he models his game off a professional pitcher with a similar build and pitch repertoire.

“For me its Spencer Strider on the mound. He’s more of a muscle-bound pitcher, a big strong guy. That’s more my game,” Gillott said.” I’m not a DeGrom who is hyper-flexible so if I’m trying to replicate anything its more or less Spencer Strider’s delivery.”

The selection makes sense. Strider stands at 6-foot tall and 195 pounds. Gillott is also 6-foot tall and weighs 210 pounds.

The similarities do not stop there. Strider is known for his electric fastball and wipeout slider combination. While he throws other pitches, those are his best and his iconic offerings.

Gillott utilizes a similar process to get outs, flashing the fastball then garnering whiffs with the breaker.

“I think it’s my best pitch and I don’t think many people square it up,” Gillott said.

Despite his clear athletic versatility, Gillott was not a two-way player to start his collegiate career.

“I was just a PO (Pitcher only) at my old school and ended up being a two way here,” Gillott said.

His old school was Division I University of South Carolina Upstate. He played there during his freshman year before transferring and getting the opportunity to play both ways collegiately for the first time with SRU.

This does not come as too much of a surprise, given the redshirt sophomore would pick pitching over hitting if he had to choose, but picking up the bat again has reminded him what he is capable of.

“I always preferred pitching. This year it has kind of been a wake up call for me that I can swing it a little bit,” Gillott said.

With the newly rediscovered talent, the pitcher and outfielder does not change his mindset between pitching and hitting. When he is locked in, he is locked in both ways. Often times, that comes as a result of being dialed in on the little things.

“I wouldn’t say anything changes mentally,” Gillott said. “I have some queues when I’m pitching like I’ll repeatedly say ‘pitch by pitch, out by out, inning by inning,’ in my head to kind of stay locked in on the next pitch and not let the game get too big.”

Fellow teammate and two-way player Michael Kitko shared similar words.

“Nothing mentally really changes. I just stay stretched and stay loose and make sure I run in between innings,” Kitko said.

Joey Purcell, another dominant two-way star for The Rock’s baseball program, shares similar experiences when it comes to focus. Gillott expressed this sentiment.

“As long as you’re eliminating the free stuff and not walking guys, I think all of our stuff is good enough to dominate. When we’re in the zone, we’re locked in,” Gillott said.

The three remain the same when it comes to control.

“When we do throw strikes, I can’t remember a time we really got hit up a lot,” Purcell said.

While the three players have enough differences between playstyle and preparation, the focus on throwing strikes is universal. Filling up the zone often marks a good outing.

“When I watch either one of them, if they’re in the zone to start the day, I know we’re in a good spot because when these two are in the zone, you know they’re going to dominate. As long as they’re throwing strikes to start, I know we’re locked in,” Gillott said.

The ability to do the job of two players at a high level for their team gives The Rock’s two-way standouts the confidence needed to dominate day in and day out.

“I don’t really look at stats but doing both and playing well at both gives me the confidence every day that I’m the best player on the field,” Gillott said.

Through little league and high school, plenty of players are far above their competition as a pitcher and hitter. Those numbers start to dwindle when you reach a level of baseball like the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC).

“We all know that we’re good in this conference both ways. Not a lot of people can say that.” Purcell said.

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