Burrows claims an Alabama baseball recordBy Elliott Propes | 03/04/2016 1:40pm
CW | Layton Dudley
Hells Bells by AC/DC starts playing over Sewell-Thomas Stadium and the man wearing the number 40 struts out in the ninth inning towards the pitching mound. Thomas Burrows has a stride of confidence, as he is now the all-time leader for saves in Alabama baseball history.
“These guys, you can see it in their eyes when you hand them the ball at the end of the game,” coach Mitch Gaspard said. “I knew in the fall when [Burrows] first got here, just the way he attacked veteran hitters, that he wasn’t going to back off of anybody and he thought he was the best player on the field.”
Burrows, a junior now, reached the record of 22 saves this past Tuesday against Troy to secure the 2-1 victory. So far this year he has not allowed a single baserunner in 6.1 innings of work.
“It’s just something something I’ve worked for a long time, and the coaching staff has been right by my side and have a lot of faith in me to keep sending me out, closing out games,” Burrows said.
Gaspard said the record is really impressive with all the good closers that have come through Alabama’s program. One of those closers was David Robertson who is entering his ninth season in the MLB as a closer. Robertson has a chance to eclipse the 100-save mark this season with the Chicago White Sox, with 81 saves.
This season so far, Burrows has struck out 11 of the 19 batters he has faced. Gaspard said a lot has been attributed to the development of his slider.
“You got to give him a lot of credit for his breaking ball, because really for two years his breaking was a distant second pitch,” Gaspard said. “He always had good fastball command, but he’s worked really hard on his slider. Now that his velocity has jumped up fastball-wise, now he’s throwing that slider a lot harder and sharper and it is a put-away pitch now.”
Burrows throws from the left side with a three-quarter arm slot and as Gaspard said, he has always had good placement with his fastball. His freshman season he finished with many accolades after posting a 2.15 earned run average and recording 11 saves. He was named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball and NCBWA. He was also part of the SEC All-Freshman team.
“The one thing he showed immediately was just ultra confidence when he got on the mound. Really that has never wavered from day one,” Gaspard said. “He became our closer within the second week of his freshman year, and in the last three years when we hand the ball to him, myself and the team feel really good that we are going to win the game.”
Burrows comes from a high school of around 600 students in Florence Alabama. He played first base and pitched for Mars Hill Bible School baseball team, and quickly became a star on his team becoming all-state his sophomore and junior year, then winning 3A pitcher of the year his senior season. Not only was he a good pitcher, but he left the high school with a record of most RBIs and most home runs at 28. Coming out of high school, Perfect Game USA.
“When I go back to when I was a little kid I guess I always [wanted to be] the guy at the plate, 3-2 [count] two outs looking to win the game. I never really thought I’d be on the other side of that,” Burrows said.
Alabama also has a set-up man who has good numbers this year. Matt Foster, a transfer from Gulf Coast State College has yet to give up a run as well. Foster has given up a one walk and a hit, but he has eight strikeouts in 4.2 innings of work.
“The good thing about is it is not just one guy. We’ve got Foster back there too,” freshman Chandler Taylor said. I’ve been telling people the past two weeks, the way our bullpen is right now, if we take a lead into the eighth you can call it in.”
Alabama will travel to Cary North Carolina this weekend, where Burrows hopes to lengthen his saves record at the USA Baseball-Irish Classic. The tournament is round-robin style and Alabama will play four games against Notre Dame, Niagara, N.C. State and Brown.