Sigman Sets Down 10 In A Row In Flawless Performance As West Virginia Sweeps Pitt
By Matt Keller
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It wasn’t easy being Jackson Sigman at the midpoint of this season.
The senior sidearm pitcher was in a funk, having melted down in consecutive April appearances against Kansas and Maryland when he allowed a combined 10 hits and nine runs in three innings. Later that month, Sigman was knocked around at Kansas State, giving up five hits and six runs in another two appearances that spanned just three innings total.
It crushed his confidence, to the point where pitching coach Derek Matlock sat the right-hander down and inquired as to his exact mental condition.
“We sat down and had a conversation the Monday before Virginia Tech (just after the K-State series),” Sigman said. “He asked me how my confidence was and I said ‘It can’t get much worse than this, so I know it is only going to get better – so I’m really confident right now.’ We took that into Virginia Tech and that’s when I got things going again, made some mechanical adjustments from the way I set up to the way I move my arm.”
Including a big one. Sigman’s starting approach with his upper body was too high, which left the sidearm delivery, and thus the location of the ball, in the same place. Those location issues – belt high and just off the middle of the plate – was like serving up a platter of extra base hits to Big 12 batters. Matlock worked with the senior to correct the delivery, and over the last eight relief opportunities, Sigman has allowed just seven hits and three runs while striking out 15 and walking three in 16 innings. His ERA has dropped from a season-high of 7.36 to a reasonable 4.96 now, after Sigman retired all 10 Pitt batters he faced in picking up the win in West Virginia’s 2-0 victory on Tuesday night to close the home schedule.
“Since then, it’s been all that I could ask for,” Sigman said. “I came out in the eighth and we talked about going with Zarb (Braden Zarbnisky) for the ninth. But coach Matlock said ‘This is your game; you’re going to finish it out in your last home game.’ The coaches knew that meant a lot to me.”
A native of Austin, Texas, Sigman will finish his collegiate career in his hometown this weekend, as WVU faces Texas on the same Disch–Falk Field in which that sidearm delivery started in a fall high school game. The unorthodox style has carried him from there, to Glendale Community College and West Virginia, where he has set the school record for pitching appearances in a season with 31.
“Growing up in Austin, the school was always a big part of my life,” Sigman said. “My parents graduated from there, my mom still teaches there. Looking back, I never thought my regular season career would end there. It’s cool thinking that my first outing ever as a sidearm pitcher was there and my last regular season outing will be in my hometown with my family there and the emotions that go with it.”
There’s much to play for, for both Sigman and West Virginia (31-20), which won for a fourth consecutive time and fifth in six games with the 2-0 victory over Pitt. The Mountaineers, currently tied with Baylor for fourth in the Big 12, could finish as high as second and as low as seventh in the conference pending the results of the three-game weekend series. WVU is also trying to solidify its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1996, snapping a 21-year drought, and Sigman will play a key role against a Texas team with an excellent rotation itself.
“This has been an amazing three years I have been here,” Sigman said. “Three years of amazing support from an amazing fan base. I’m going to miss games tonight when the fans are rocking and it’s a great environment and miss playing for a school you take a lot of pride in and who took a chance on you coming out of junior college when they didn’t have to.”