Notre Dame's second option

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
AARON EISENHAUER ~ aeisenhauer@semissourian.com Dylan Drury has posted a 5-1 record and 2.58 ERA as the Bulldogs' No. 2 starter during his junior season at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame junior Dylan Drury credits his genes for his passion for baseball.

"I've been playing since I was real little," he said. "There's a pretty good history in my family. My grandpa played baseball. He was drafted when he was younger. My uncle, he's a good baseball player. I guess it's just in my family. My cousin got drafted by the Dodgers. ... This is my favorite sport and I like to play it."

Drury has served as the Bulldogs' No. 2 starting pitcher this season, helping them reach the Class 3 state semifinals. Notre Dame faces St. Dominic on Friday at Meador Park in Springfield. The first pitch is scheduled for 10 a.m.

Drury's gone 5-1 with a 2.58 ERA, but he hasn't been pleased with his performances lately. He hopes to turn it around at the state tournament.

"Hopefully I can mature a little bit this weekend and overcome a little nerves and throw a little more strikes," he said.

Notre Dame coach Jeff Graviett said Drury's problems lately are due to his lack of opportunities.

"He's a kid that typically needs a lot of work, and he's not getting the work," Graviett said. "We can't simulate the game in the bullpen. When he was throwing every third day, he was throwing tremendously well. We have to get him going. He's also a kid that throws better after he gets around that 70 to 80 pitch mark."

The rocky stretch hasn't shaken Drury's confidence, and Graviett plans to call on Drury at the state tournament.

"I feel comfortable on the mound," Drury said. "Lately things haven't been going my way. I feel that if I'm on the mound in a high-pressure game now, I can probably overcome it and do a lot better than I have been doing."

Drury doesn't overpower hitters. He uses a mix of his fastball, curveball and changeup to trick hitters.

"Dylan has a lot of offspeed," Notre Dame catcher Jacob Valleroy said. "He keeps them pretty off balance. He comes in with a fastball whenever he wants to."

Control is one of Drury's greatest attributes on the mound. While he doesn't throw fastballs past hitters, he doesn't hurt himself with a lot of walks.

"He gets all three pitches over," Graviett said. "He needs to get ahead in the count early. He's got a great changeup. But when we're calling the pitches, we've got to get ahead before we utilize those kind of pitches. He's struggled the last couple outings with getting ahead, which he was doing early."

Drury, who plays second base when he isn't pitching, makes his presence felt at the plate, too. He's the Bulldogs' No. 3 hitter. He's batting .413 with 11 RBIs and five stolen bases this season.

"I've been getting a lot of hits, getting on base," he said. "You've just got to be aggressive. That first pitch, you're looking for something to hammer. Other than that, you're just looking for something you can drive. If you get two strikes, you're looking for something to put in play."

He said it's a toss-up between which he enjoys more — pitching or playing second base.

"It's a good feeling knowing the game's in your hands," he said. "But I have confidence in the other guys who pitch. I like them both."

While some of Drury's teammates have won state titles in soccer and basketball this school year, he only plays baseball. That means this is his lone chance to earn a championship ring, but he isn't putting too much pressure on himself.

"At the beginning of the year, we knew we were a lot better than we were playing," he said. "We knew we had the ability to get up to state. I don't look at it as that much pressure seeing as how we made it to state. We can't really be satisfied with going up there. I've played a lot of baseball, so it's just another game."

He admitted it feels like it's taking forever for Friday to get here, when he finally will be able to take the field. He plans to enjoy every part of his first trip to the state tournament.

"I'm looking forward to the whole experience of going up there," he said. "Taking a bus up there, staying the night with the team, getting a hotel up there. I'm just looking to going up there and winning the whole thing."

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