Leading up to the start of the season on February 16 at Coastal Carolina, TechSideline.com will be highlighting the seven seniors as they give it their last run in a Hokie uniform.
If you want to find a competitor, you can look no further than Virginia Tech senior Connor Coward. The right-hander has appeared in 49 games over his career at Virginia Tech and pitched 130.0 innings. Last year, Coward led the Hokies with 72.0 innings pitched, compiling a 4.75 ERA with 59 strikeouts. Now, in the Hokies’ first season under John Szefc, Coward is expected to be the Friday night starter.
Q: Who’s the funniest guy on the team?
CC: Overall, Tom Stoffel I would probably say. He probably has the best sense of humor. The funniest to me is probably Stevie Mangrum.
Q: Who’s your favorite MLB team?
CC: Pittsburgh Pirates.
Q: You’re from Pittsburgh. What’s your favorite thing to do there?
CC: My favorite place is Station Square in the city. There are a lot of good restaurants there. Southside just for social life is fun as well. I like to go to hockey games. The Penguins are my favorite sports team.
Q: Do you have a ritual or superstition when you’re on the field?
CC: Not really, I’m not a big superstition type of guy. If I’m on the bench I’ll do some weird stuff, anything the team is doing. As far as me on the field personally, not really.
Q: You’re one out away from a complete game and you have an 0-2 count on the last batter. What pitch are you throwing him?
CC: Curveball, no doubt.
Q: What has been your favorite memory from playing the last three years?
CC: I have a few of them, but in my top one or two would be my freshman year when we swept Virginia. That was a really good time. That was a memorable time. This most recent year when we beat Florida State two out of three, that was a good time as well. I pitched the Saturday against Florida State, and the Sunday against UVA my freshman year. Those were two of the best moments. Also, when I started Friday night at Clemson, that was a really cool atmosphere.
Q: How has it been working with Coach Fecteau in his first year as the pitching coach?
CC: I can’t speak highly enough about him. Working with him is a pleasure. I really appreciate how he goes about instructing the pitching staff as a whole, especially with the older guys. He’s a little bit different with the older guys than the younger guys. With guys like me, the senior guys, he gives us guidance and says here’s what you need to do, but let’s us have our freedom with it. I like to do things and other guys like to do things at their own pace with their own flair on it. I think he’s really good at giving us a little bit of leeway to do what we need to do, but also holding us accountable at the same time. I can’t speak highly enough of him.
Q: You were one of the workhorses for the team last year, pitching a team-high 72.0 innings. What’s your mindset every time you take the mound knowing the team is relying on you to go deep in the game?
CC: The first thing I try to do is get the first guy out every inning. It’s always my goal when I’m on the mound and the game starts and it’s the first pitch of the game, I just try to throw a strike. Just go inning by inning. I think if I start looking ahead where I think, ‘I have four more innings left, I have three more innings left, or I need to get to the 7th inning or I need to get to the 6th,’ you start looking at the big picture and it can kind of consume you a little bit. I’ve always gone one inning at a time, and if I am at the home stretch and I know that it might be my last inning, then I start to really push for that last inning. I have always just done one pitch at a time, one inning at a time. I make the game slow down that way.
Q: What’s the biggest improvement you’ve seen in your game from where you were as a freshman to where you are today heading into your senior season?
CC: Two areas, I would say one would be just control in general. Not necessarily throwing strikes, but throwing strikes in different parts of the strike zone. Being able to work inside and out. One of my biggest improvements last year was being able to work in the inner half of the plate. Really being able to get inside of guys and move some hands, move some feet. Obviously, mindset as well. My freshman year I came in wide-eyed, bushy-tailed type thing. I wasn’t calm on the mound in most situations. I kind of thought that I wasn’t good enough to be here when I was younger. Now I know that I am good enough to pitch at this level. I can be successful with what I have. I don’t need to be throwing 98 mph. I just need to be able to work both halves of the plate, and keep the game under control.
Q: How do you want people to remember Connor Coward when you take off the Virginia Tech jersey for the last time?
CC: I want to go out as just a team guy in general. I realize I’m not going to go down in the ranks as one of the greatest of all time or anything like that. Just being able to be remembered as a consistent guy who when I was on the mound you would always have a game on your hands. You would never be out of a game when I was on the mound. As far as my teammates remembering me, I just always want to be remembered as a good teammate and a team-oriented guy who was always there for someone when they need me. I’ve put that high on my priority list, especially as a senior this year.