Under coach Rob Sheppard, the Seton Hall baseball program has always held a pivotal principle to its players – earn your role. As a Pirate, opportunities have to be seized. When the chance is there, whoever wants it the most will end up with it.
Noah Thompson understands the necessity of hard work, as he has been preparing since the end of last season to become a starter for the pitching staff. Thompson wants to be the guy who handles the first pitch off the mound, as it is his competitive nature.
“Noah wanted that start,” Sheppard said of Thompson’s performance during last year’s Big East tournament. “When we were talking about that tournament last year, he was looking forward to it. You could tell he wanted that start. It was an opportunity for him to have an impact and help the team. He did a tremendous job. He stepped up to the plate and did really well. I think that’s a sign of things to come. He did really well in that game and I’m sure he’s going to continue that this season.”
In his first two years, Thompson would regularly come out the bullpen for Seton Hall. His freshman campaign, the 6-foot-4, lanky right-hander struggled, posting an 8.49 ERA in his 10 appearances. Despite the production not being there, Thompson demonstrated his competitiveness was not just on the field, but also in the classroom, as he was named the university’s Freshman Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Sophomore year, Thompson was a new pitcher. The Texas native posted a 3.51 ERA in 33.1 innings pitched, striking out 40 batters while holding opponents to the lowest batting average against on the team at .149.
Building off his breakout season, Thompson has now emphasized controlling the count more when deciding his pitch selection. The junior has been putting in countless hours towards improving on this.
“Whoever (Coach Sheppard) sees as the best for a certain situation, he is going to put out there,” Thompson said. “It just came down to fall practices, throwing in the fall, throwing against our fall hitters and doing things like that, and the same with winter. I just really came to it. I think I attacked the zone a lot better this year compared to my sophomore year, where I was walking a lot more people and in the winter. My curveball and changeup were also looking a lot more complete pitches compared to sophomore year.”
In his first start this season, Thompson saw his determination to enhance his skill in the offseason come to fruition, as he was named to the Big East Honor Roll for the first time in his career thanks to his performance against Ohio State. In his six innings of work against the Buckeyes, Thompson allowed just two runs, striking out 10 and only walking two. A moment like this was what Thompson has thought about since his final pitch last season.
“I was expecting (a new role with starting),” Thompson said. “I obviously need to learn it, but I did expect to start, especially during the summer. I prepared like I was going to start this year and go from there.”
Once presented with the opportunity, Thompson will not let go of what he has earned. Transitioning from a reliever to a starter, Thompson will have a new mentality to continue to aid the Pirates from the rubber.
“As a reliever, you don’t know when you’re pitching so you have to have the mindset to try and stay a little bit, for me at least, loose,” Thompson said. “But when I’m a starter, when I know I am pitching, my mindset is a lot different. I’m preparing for it. I do not like really talking to too many people. I like to get into a mindset where I can pitch really well, pitch ‘pissed off’, and I need to set myself up for that, it does not just happen.”
Robert Fallo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @robert_fallo.