Erik Schoenrock said he wasn't much of a ground-ball pitcher in college, but it's a tendency he's picked up through his first few professional starts and it's helped him script a pretty successful opening act.
Schoenrock showed Friday just how dominant he's been, allowing one hit and issuing one walk while striking out seven over six innings as short-season Eugene blanked Everett, 8-0.
"I was able to throw all three of my pitches for strikes, kind of whenever I wanted to, and that's when I'm going good, when I can throw all three for strikes," the 21-year-old left-hander said. "I was working ahead, using my defense behind me and getting ground balls."
Schoenrock, who said he throws a two-seam fastball, a changeup and a curve, induced eight ground-ball outs while recording three through the air. In six Northwest League starts, he's recorded 2.47 outs on the ground for every one made in the air.
"Especially since I got here, I got them a little bit in college, but here there have been a lot of ground balls, and we have a turf field, so it's good to get ground balls, the hops are truer," he said. "I'd say I'm turning into [a ground-ball pitcher], looking at my numbers so far. Hopefully, that continues."
In addition to grounders, he's striking out a few more batters than he did in his final season at the University of Memphis. He had a 2.51 ERA with 85 punchouts against 25 walks over 96 2/3 innings with the Tigers. That gave him a rate of 7.91 strikeouts per nine innings.
After Friday's outing, the Tennessee native ranks fourth in the league with a 2.15 ERA in 29 1/3 frames. He's also tied for second with 28 strikeouts or 8.59 per nine innings.
Schoenrock, selected by the Padres in the 11th round of last month's Draft, said he felt his velocity was a little more potent than it was in college, something he attributed to throwing every day and being able to focus on workouts in a way he couldn't do as an amateur.
"In college, I was pretty much sitting 86-89 [mph], touching 90s, but tonight I think I was like 89-90, touching 91 and maybe even a couple 92s," he said. "I guess a little of it is my arm's gotten stronger -- there are no off days -- and a combination of a lot of things that help the velocity. But I'm more worried about getting the movement, being down in the zone."
Schoenrock admitted that things have gone about as well as he could have hoped.
"I love it here. Pro baseball is everything I thought it would be and more. I'm just happy to be with the Padres, here with the Emeralds -- it's a great city and I'm enjoying it so far," he said. "This is what I wanted to do from a young age and now I'm living it, trying to enjoy every day of it. It's been awesome.
Ronnie Richardson led the Emeralds offensively, going 2-for-4 with a three-run homer, his second of the season. Anthony Torres also had two hits, including a two-run double.