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Fithian keeps head up, keeps throwing strikes

NORCROSS - Adjust, adapt and overcome.

Those are three words that have served Drew Fithian well during this season with the Wesleyan baseball team.

As much as his role in the Wolves' pitching staff has changed throughout this spring, the senior right-hander has had to do all three.

He has done all three of those things quite well and will once again be a major factor in Wesleyan's run for a second straight state championship. The Wolves welcome Brookstone to Donn Gaebelein Field for a Class A semifinal series Monday.

"My dad (Ted) pitched in college (at Ohio State), and he's always saying, 'Keep your head up and keep throwing strikes,'" Fithian said. "He's always been there to talk to me after a game and give me a review and keeps me (focused)."

With all the adjustments Fithian had to make early this season, it would've been tough for many high school pitchers in his situation to keep their heads up.

After being a big cog coming out of the bullpen as Wesleyan won the Class AA state title last year, Fithian was expected to become the Wolves' closer this season.

But early-season injuries to starters Devin Stanton and Brooks Colquitt forced him to make the occasional start.

"We moved him to second (base from third base when he wasn't pitching) for the purpose of being the closer," Wesleyan coach Mike Shaheen said. "That was a move we said we needed to do, not knowing he'd have to end up being a starter in big situations."

While he didn't pitch poorly in those early starts, the results weren't always pretty.

Plagued by a mechanical problem with his curveball and some shaky early-season fielding behind him, Fithian was 0-5 at his nadir.

However, Shaheen had no doubt Fithian would be able to bounce back.

"Drew is a microcosm of the senior class," Shaheen said. "Drew has done a great job. He's moved positions defensively. Hitting, he's hitting fifth, but he's not your typical No. 5 hitter. ... And then pitching-wise, he's had to do a few different things."

Fithian has made those adjustments well. He has won four straight decisions since that start to raise his season record to 4-5 with a 3.17 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 461/3 innings, and has been solid at the plate with a .295 average and 14 RBIs.

Still, it took a while for Fithian to figure things out. While the defense behind him slowly improved, he was still looking to make an adjustment with his curveball, and he turned to teammate Stanton and pitching coach Brian Krehmeyer for answers.

"It was easier when I figured out my curveball," Fithian said. "It's a pitch I'm able to throw for strikes more now. Coach Krehmeyer is working with that, and Devin also gives me a lot of advice, which is awesome."

Just as awesome is how effective Fithian has proven to be in clutch situations.

Last year, he picked up a win and a save and gave up just one earned run in four playoff appearances in Wesleyan's title run.

This spring, he's been even more effective going 3-0 with a 2.19 ERA in three postseason outings - including two starts, a role neither he nor Shaheen anticipated, though one that became necessary as Colquitt's arm ailments have lingered.

"We knew he could be a starter for Game 3 in the playoffs, but we didn't realize he'd have to be a Game 2 guy," Shaheen said. "He obviously had to be really versatile this year. But he and all the other seniors ... have had to be that way."

SideBar: THE FITHIAN FILE

Who: Drew Fithian

Sport: Baseball

School: Wesleyan

Class: Senior

Favorite TV show: "SportCenter"

Favorite sports team: Atlanta Braves

Favorite musical artist: T.I.

Top sign your going to have a good day pitching: When I'm able to locate my fastball

Noteworthy:

· Recovered from an 0-5 start to win his last five decisions in a combination of a starter and reliever role. Is 4-5 with a 3.17 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 461/3 innings this season, including 3-0 with a 2.19 ERA in three postseason appearances

· Played a major role in the Wolves' Class AA state title last year, giving up just one run in 52/3 innings (1.23 ER) out of the bullpen in four playoff appearances, picking up a win and a save

· Is also contributing at the plate this season for Wesleyan, hitting .295 with 14 RBIs and 7 SBs