RIVER FOREST – For some pitchers the transition from starting to relieving can be a tough one.
Not always knowing when they will be entering the game can mess with a pitcher’s routine, and just one mistake can define an entire appearance.
For Steve Cox, relieving was a smooth transition. The current Concordia senior and Willowbrook graduate starred out of the Cougars’ bullpen last year and earned a number of national awards for his play.
After not allowing an earned run in 16 innings and going 13-for-13 in save opportunities, Cox earned three postseason awards and had one award before throwing his first pitch this season when D3Baseball.com named him a second-team Preseason All-American.
“It’s pretty cool to get some recognition like that,” Cox said. “I’ve never had any recognition like that before.”
The Cougars are 6-2 this season and Cox has thrown three scoreless innings so far. He is hoping to match the success that he and the team had last year.
Last year, the Cougars went 39-7, which gave them the highest winning percentage in Division III. The team made a regional final, coming one game away from the Division III World Series.
“It was really exciting,” Cox said. “Last year was the farthest I believe any Concordia baseball team has made it in the playoffs. It was a very exciting year.”
Cox was always a starter when coming up through youth baseball in Villa Park. After leaving Willowbrook as a starter, he got a chance to start at Concordia. As a freshman Cox made seven starts and four relief appearances and posted a 2.68 ERA. The following year he made just three starts. Last year he made the transition to the bullpen full time.
“It actually went pretty smoothly working with the pitching coaches,” Cox said. “Smoother than I thought it would be.”
He struck out 20 batters in 16 innings and allowed just one unearned run in his first full year in the bullpen.
“That’s honestly the ultimate goal,” Cox said of not allowing any earned runs. “It is an unlikely goal to achieve. It was pretty amazing to reach a goal of mine.”
This season Cox is hoping to simply match what he did last year since it is hard to surpass that. Regardless, he remembers that Willowbrook helped get him to this place.
“I feel like it put me on the right path and helped me work for what I wanted,” he said.
Steve Cox's 2013 postseason awards
• Second-team All-Northern Athletics Conference • First-team D3Baseball.com All-Midwest Region • Second-team American Baseball Coaches Association All-Midwest Region