Voit, Petree using old friendship to lead Cardinals

From a pitcher/catcher duo at Missouri State University to teammates in the St. Louis Cardinals organization

Luke Voit (left) and Nick Petree (right) are having terrific seasons for the Palm Beach Cardinals.

By Brian Newton | July 24, 2014 12:23 PM ET

On the last weekend road trip of the 2013 season, Missouri State University standouts Nick Petree and Luke Voit let their imaginations run wild, talking about what it would be like to play professional baseball and joking about the idea of getting drafted by the same organization.

Little did they know that in June of the same year, their dreams would become reality.

The St. Louis Cardinals selected Petree in the ninth round and Voit in the 22nd round of the June, 2013 Draft and sent the pitcher/catcher duo to Short-Season State College to begin their professional careers.

"It was crazy because [Petree] got drafted the first or second day and he called me right after I got off the phone talking with a scout," said Voit. "It's pretty surreal playing with a guy for four years and then being able to play professionally with him - it's pretty awesome."

Petree came into the Cardinals organization after a dazzling college career. In 2012, he was named the Collegiate Baseball Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year and was a Collegiate Baseball, Baseball America, and NCBWA First-Team All-American. The same year, Petree was the NCAA Division I Statistical National Champion with a 1.01 ERA. His 114 strikeouts on the season represented the 16th-best total in the nation.

During his junior season at Missouri State in 2013, Petree was named the top defensive Division I pitcher and earned All-America recognition for the third season. He went 8-1 with a 1.61 ERA in his final year with the Bears.

And through his first year and a half of professional baseball, Petree has been just as impressive.

The right-hander is 10-4 with a 1.71 ERA in 27 games - 24 starts - between Short-Season State College, Low-A Peoria, and High-A Palm Beach since turning pro last June.

"It's crazy how he's just been able to keep his ERA under 2.00 his whole college and pro career so far," said Voit. "He doesn't have the best stuff but when people get on base he doesn't care who is hitting, he's going to get you out.

"He's so mentally strong and he can locate all of his pitches so he's pretty easy to catch too. He just knows how to pitch and always knows what to throw. It's like he plays mind games with hitters."

Voit, who spent much of the 2013 season on the receiving end of Petree's fastballs in State College, has had a seamless transition into professional baseball as well.

Through his first 55 games with the Palm Beach Cardinals, Voit owned a .305 batting average with 35 runs, 31 RBI and four homers.

But his most striking statistic might be his .374 average with runners on base.

Since his first game with the Cardinals back on May 20, Voit has proven to be a clutch hitter. In his Florida State League debut that night, Voit waited until the bottom of the 11th inning against Brevard County to record his first hit and RBI in a Palm Beach uniform.

With the bases loaded in a scoreless game, Voit lined a single into left field to drive home the winning run in walk-off fashion for what was one of the most memorable hits for the Cardinals this season.

"It was one of the coolest things," said Luke on the walk-off thriller. "I hadn't hit a walk-off in awhile and to do it in my first game after getting called up was pretty sweet. It was exciting. I couldn't have asked for anything better than that."

Voit's walk-off hit marked the turnaround for the Cardinals team. Heading into that game on May 20, the Birds were a season-worst eight games under .500 (18-26) and have since been one of the hottest teams in the league. The squad won 39 of their next 52 games to improve to a season-best 18 games above .500 (57-39) and catapult into first place in the FSL South.

"We have a good team chemistry and good team morale," said Petree. "I think we have everyone's back as far as teammates go. I feel like that translates to the field and helps us go out there and get the job done."

Petree, who has also been an integral part of the turnaround, has ranked near the top of the league in terms of ERA since his first appearance on May 6. Through his first 11 starts, Petree was 5-3 with a 1.93 ERA, 15 walks and 56 strikeouts.

Although the friends aren't batterymates any longer, with Voit transitioning from behind the plate to first base this season, they are still able to use their knowledge of each other's games to help the team.

"It was a little weird not having him catch for me at first," Petree noted of the transition. "We've gotten used to it. He still knows the game behind the dish so he can still help me out whenever he sees something going on."

"I miss not catching Nick but as for the whole transition to first base - it's just getting back into that whole rhythm of knowing what to do in certain situations all the time," said Voit.

With just a little over a month left of the season and a postseason berth on the line, these two stars are just happy to be on the ride together, wherever they are positioned on the field.

"I have a lot of respect for him," Petree said. "We know each other really well and it's neat to be playing with the catcher that you played college ball with.

"I just feel like we can talk to each other and we can tell each other what's going on - what we see, what's wrong with each other's games, and help one another out like that."

"Nick and I have a really good chemistry," Voit commented on the duo's relationship. "We're always playing cards, going out and doing things together. Back in college we were great friends - always making fun of each other and stuff. He's a great guy and I hope the best for him."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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