by Alan Hieber
The Wright State pitching staff leads the Horizon League in strikeouts and Zane Collins is one of the signature pieces for the Raiders who have been fanning opposing batters.
In his arsenal of pitches, Collins is most effective with his fastball that averages around 89-90 mph and against Clemson, he reached 93 mph. The ability of Collins to give batters heat has paid off, which his two HL pitcher of the week honors and 73 strikeouts illustrates.
Collins credits first-year WSU pitching coach Alex Sogard in achieving these productive results from the mound.
“He (Sogard) is a good confidence builder the way he carries himself and talks to us,” Collins said.
Sogard has helped Collins perfect the sinking motion on top of the speed in his fastball, says WSU coach Jeff Mercer.
"His development of a true sinker makes him unique to any player I've coached,” Mercer said. “A left-handed sinker is an absolute rarity, especially when you realize how much his fastball actually moves every pitch.”
Collins' hometown of West Mansfield, Ohio, has a population around 700. It is a town with one stoplight and a little grocery store he says. He feels with this type of background he is better able to relate with Mercer, who comes from the small town of Bargersville, Indiana.
“This year understanding my head coach (Mercer) better has helped me out a lot if I need someone to talk to,” Collins said.
Early wins against nationally ranked teams Clemson and South Carolina this season might be surprising to some, but the Raiders have been becoming more accustomed to these types of outcomes.
The WSU mentality of playing against the ball makes the pitchers well suited for marquee victories. Collins showed this fearless attitude last season when he earned the save against Ohio State in the NCAA regional.
"You play against the ball instead of the teams so you don't have to worry about who they are and get nervous," Collins said.
Collins' first start this season came against Clemson, and though he gave up three earned runs in a 6-2 loss, the five-inning outing that included four strikeouts was promising to Mercer.
"His first start against Clemson was special because I knew how hard he had worked and how far he had come since I recruited him in high school," Mercer said. "I was so proud of him and continue to be so."
The Raider pitching staff is a tight-knit brotherhood, according to Collins. This carries over to the bullpen where they advise each other about small details like tilting the glove more, which makes it harder for opposing runners to see what pitch is being thrown during the game.
"It helps you because when you get runners on base, they cannot see pitches to tell the hitter," Collins said. "It saves you runs with the other team not being able to see it."
Collins studies organizational leadership and expressed an interest in one day having a career in law enforcement. When his WSU career ends in a few years, he hopes to play professionally.
The Raiders are eyeing a three-pack of titles in three seasons at UIC this weekend. With hard-throwing aces like Collins in the rotation, the WSU championship aspirations should continue for years to come.
"There is no limit to Zane's possible accomplishments at WSU and beyond," Mercer said. "His work ethic and sinker have a chance to carry him a long way in this game."