Knocking on Wood
May 28, 2009
AUSTIN, Texas -- Austin Wood became a better pitcher by not pitching at all.
Instead, he lifted, he jumped and he ran. Instead of working in the bullpen, Wood spent his summer in the weight room.
"If you're not in shape, your body is going to break down towards the end of the season," Wood said. "It's turned out well so far."
Wood is also mastering understatement. He leads the top-seeded Longhorns into the NCAA Austin Baseball Regional with a 5-1 record and 14 saves this season. Wood owns a 2.54 ERA on a team that owns the best ERA in the nation.
His 14 saves rank fourth on UT's single-season list and are just five short of the school record.
"At the end (of games) we can really trust him," UT pitching coach Skip Johnson said. "The leadership he's shown in that role is huge for us."
It was after the Longhorns bowed out in their NCAA Regional this time last year that Wood came to Johnson and said he was considering something new. Instead of heading out to play offseason ball, Wood wanted to work on his body.
Baseball strength and conditioning coach Lance Sewell struggled to find the right word to describe Wood's previous physique.
"Scrawny, but strong. Wiry," Sewell said.
Wood is more to the point. "I was pretty skinny," he said.
Fifteen pounds of lean muscle later, Wood feels brand new. Even at this point in the season.
Sewell went after Wood with a weight-room plan that targeted his legs, torso and abdominal areas. Wood generates his power with his trunk, and his core strength supports his throwing shoulder.
Four days a week, after working from 8 a.m. to noon in the academic services office, Wood met Sewell at the UFCU Disch-Falk training facility. They worked out together, one-on-one, until around 3 p.m.
"Then I tried to recover the rest of the day," Wood said. "I knew we were going to work out, but I didn't know the intensity that went with it. Lance really pushed me. I'm very fortunate to have him."
Sewell feels similarly.
"One thing I learned was how fun it was. He would push me, and I would push him. We kind of went back and forth," Sewell said.
With that kind of fitness foundation already underneath him, Wood had no problem adapting his body in January when he was notified he'd be the team's closer. Sewell adjusted Wood's workouts to develop more power in short bursts.
"If I can present Skip with a better athlete, then Skip will make him a better pitcher," Sewell said.
And now Wood's numbers speak for themselves.
"Being a closer, I have to be able to throw whenever, in all situations," Wood said. "It's shown dramatically in how my arm has responded."