Matt Connolly

USC’s Braden Webb excels against top prospect

Braden Webb struck out 10 batters Saturday against Missouri.
Braden Webb struck out 10 batters Saturday against Missouri. Special to The State

Braden Webb’s goal is to always be better than the opposing pitcher, and Saturday night he was up to the challenge against the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 MLB draft.

Webb improved to 8-2, allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings in USC’s 5-1 win over Missouri. The freshman struck out 10 batters, a week after allowing eight runs in 2 1/3 innings at Georgia.

“He’s got great stuff, and he’s continuing to learn how to pitch and change speeds,” Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “He certainly did get some big outs for us, and pitched into the sixth inning and gave us a chance to win  He did his job.”

Webb knew he needed to pitch well because runs would be at a premium against a pitcher who opponents were hitting .187 against entering the game.

He got some advice from USC ace Clarke Schmidt prior to facing off against Tanner Houck, who is the No. 1 MLB draft prospect for 2017, according to Baseball America.

“I talked to Clarke about it a lot and he told me, ‘You’re better than that guy. Just go out there and be better than that guy,’ ” Webb said. “That’s my mindset. I’ve got to be better than the other guy across the field. If I do that, I give my team a better chance to win the game.”

Webb’s curveball was particularly effective as he struck out 10 batters or more for the fourth time in his past five games. He entered the weekend leading the SEC in strikeouts looking with 31.

“The curveball was better today. I just didn’t have my changeup as well as I wanted it to be,” Webb said. “The curveball was working well for me today, and I’m lucky that I got it over the plate in some good counts. I just had to be confident in all my pitches today.”

Despite the impressive outing, Webb did walk six batters. He said he must improve in that area moving forward.

“I’ve got to go back to the drawing board and become a better student of the game, and figure out where my timing is in some pitches and things like that, so I can limit those walks down,” he said. “There are times where I try to be too aggressive, or I try to blow it by somebody, and I can’t be doing that. I have to focus on making those pitch to pitch adjustments.”

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