Daily Progress – July 4 – Evan Sperling searching for consistency with Tom Sox

Evan Sperling’s been on a summer mission for consistency with the Charlottesville Tom Sox. Virginia’s imposing right-hander began his first season of college baseball by not allowing an earned run over six innings. His 2017 finale in a Cavalier uniform, however, failed to include an out.

It came June 5 at Lupton Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. UVa, down two members of its normal rotation, called on Sperling to start against Dallas Baptist in an NCAA Tournament elimination game. The outing lasted four batters: Jameson Hannah was walked, Devlin Grandberg was hit by a pitch, Austin Listi was hit by a pitch and Matt Duce was walked.

That quartet of Patriots eventually scored, putting DBU on its way to an 11-8 win.

Six days later, Sperling debuted for the Valley Baseball League’s Tom Sox, getting through four innings and allowing just a run. Charlottesville beat Covington, 9-3.

“You get to get ready for the next season, that’s what this is for,” Sperling said recently at Charlottesville High School. “It’s not to make up for the past season, it’s to get out, get all your guys in summer ball and get ready for the next season. You just got to take it with a positive attitude.”

For a player with less than 20 appearances for Virginia, Sperling’s had a roller coaster ride since arriving on Grounds two summers ago. A high school injury led to Tommy John surgery in June 2015. He then had two knee surgeries while redshirting as a first-year.

“The first pitch he threw off the mound for us was in November [2016],” noted UVa coach Brian O’Connor. “Not only could he not throw his freshman year, he couldn’t even pitch in the fall [of his second year]. And that was because of his knee, and not his elbow.”

Sperling began this past season throwing on Saturdays in the rotation, sandwiched between Daniel Lynch and Adam Haseley. But after a solid showing on opening weekend, the inconsistencies arrived.

After not getting past the fourth inning against Louisville on April 1, Sperling was moved to a mid-week/bullpen role. The 6-foot-6, 215-pounder finished the year with a 3-3 record and 7.51 ERA, the highest on the team among those pitchers with more than six appearances. His 30 walks were second-most on UVa.

“In the kid’s defense, it was like his freshman year and he didn’t even have a fall,” O’Connor said. “So certainly he was inconsistent, as some guys are their first year.”

Sperling has yet to factor in a decision for the first-place Tom Sox (18-5). Through three starts, he has a 5.58 ERA. He’s walked 10 batters and has struck out nine over 9 2/3 innings.

“Usually I’m throwing 50 percent strikes or 50 percent fastballs for strikes, which is a problem,” Sperling said. “My off-speed has been much improved this summer, throwing it for strikes. I still need to get my fastball command up.”

Sperling, who logged over 38 innings for the Wahoos, will soon be shut down for the summer.

“Evan’s a competitor,” said Tom Sox coach Corey Hunt. “And you can say that about everybody in our lineup. We know when we give him the ball, he’s going to give us everything he has.

“He’s just fighting for some consistency at this point. His stuff is very, very good. He just needs to start trusting it and relax when he comes out here to play for us and have fun and enjoy the summer.”

It’s in all preparation for the spring. Despite the slow start, expectations around Davenport Field remain high for Sperling.

“He’s totally projectable and has good enough stuff,” O’Connor said. “But it’s got to come together and click for him. And that’s what he’s working on this summer, trying to develop consistency. That just happens to come from experience.”

Andrew Ramspacher covers UVa athletics. Contact him at (434) 978-7250aramspacher@dailyprogress.com or on Twitter @ARamspacher.