Freshman French becomes mainstay in Longhorns weekend rotation

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Freshman pitcher Parker French has yet to allow a run in more than 25 innings at home this year. French improved to 4-1 in his last outing, throwing eight scoreless innings Saturday against Oklahoma State.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

Parker French was an All-State pitcher in high school and a four-year letter winner for Dripping Springs. Despite his All-Star background, he still can’t remember a longer or more impressive outing than his scoreless, eight inning gem against Oklahoma State Saturday.

“One time in high school I went eight, but this is the first time I went eight scoreless,” French said.

Coming into the start Texas needed French to produce a long outing to help ease the burden that a doubleheader can put on a bullpen if the starters don’t pitch well, and he delivered.

In his eight innings on the rubber, French scattered six hits and only allowed one walk. He kept the Cowboys’ hitters on their toes all afternoon by mixing his hard sinker and slider with an on-point breaking ball, which caused the Cowboys to make weak contact and hit a lot of soft ground balls.

“My sinker was moving late and working really well, and being able to mix in the slider and the changeup kept them off balance,” French said. “It was around the fifth inning where they just started pounding the ball in the ground, and the defense went to work. It was awesome.”

Perhaps the most impressive part of French’s performance is that he’s just a freshman, but he makes up for his lack of experience by displaying a high level of maturity on the mound. He never seems to be rattled and is often able to work out of tough spots, whether it be a 0-2 count or a bases loaded jam.

The calm demeanor he has on the mound might also account for the way he’s been able to handle his two distinct roles on the team this season — as a reliever and, about a month into the season, a starter.

Early on, he was a key member of the Texas bullpen serving as the set-up man to closer Corey Knebel. He performed well in that role, and was effective as a bridge pitcher to Knebel — he even picked up two saves in his time as a reliever.

But, after John Curtiss and Hoby Milner struggled in the beginning of the season, French was given the opportunity to start March 18 against Oklahoma. He did not waste the opportunity. In a hostile rival ballpark, he went 6.2 innings and allowed four earned runs, narrowly missing out on a quality start in his first ever collegiate start.

French has done nothing but improve since that moment. For the season his record sits at 4-1 with a 3.31 ERA, both bests among starters for the Longhorns.

However, French’s best statistic isn’t seen in a normal box score. His most impressive number comes when he’s on his home mound at UFCU Dish-Falk Field, where he sports a pristine 0.00 ERA for the season and where the Longhorns will face Texas State Tuesday at 6 p.m. They beat the Bobcats, 6-1, March 13 earlier this season.

“It’s a great ballpark to pitch in — you have the fans behind you,” French said of pitching in his home park. “I think we feel comfortable pitching here. There’s definitely a comfort level pitching at home compared to on the road.”

French may have taken an odd road into the rotation for Texas, but since he has secured his spot he has made a huge impact for Texas in the win column. He has gotten better almost every time out, and being as young as he is, he will only continue to improve. Heck, maybe next start he can go all nine.

Printed on Tuesday, April 17, 2012 as: French fooling hitters in role as starter