South Carolina righty Wil Crowe looked a lot like the guy that was a Freshman All-American in 2014 and the Gamecocks’ ace last season as he returned to the mound for the first time in more than a year, pitching two innings for the Lexington County Blowfish Wednesday night.
Crowe’s fastball ranged from 93-95 miles per hour, and his slider was sharp in his first outing since April 10, 2015. He underwent Tommy John surgery last season after nine starts, and said it was great to be pitching in a game.
“I’m just glad to be back out here and to be able to play the game,” Crowe said. “I felt good. I feel really good. My arm feels fine. I’ve thrown a few times live, and I felt really good tonight. I’m happy to be back out here.”
Crowe allowed one hit, one walk and one run over the two innings. After a perfect first, he gave up a walk, a sac bunt and a softly hit single through the right side in the second to give the Florence Red Wolves a 1-0 lead.
The Blowfish answered with three runs in the bottom half of the inning and went on to earn a 3-2 win.
Crowe threw 30 pitches Wednesday, and the plan is for him to increase his pitch count by 15 pitches per outing over the next few weeks.
“We’re just trying to get some pitches under my belt, and get some innings under my belt and get ready to go,” he said.
The Gamecocks will begin play in the NCAA Tournament this weekend, but Crowe won’t be available because he was left off the final roster that had to be submitted before the season.
Even though he’s healthy enough to pitch, he’s at peace with the decision to redshirt this year.
“I’m definitely happy with how it played out,” he said. “I didn’t want to be rushed back into things. If you’d have asked me a month ago how I felt, I wasn’t throwing as hard as I could. I wasn’t throwing this hard. I was spotting up, but a month ago I was still throwing 85 percent. If you’d have tried to rush me back with two weekends left, I don’t know how much I would have contributed and how much of a difference I would have made with the team.”
Even though Crowe isn’t playing for South Carolina this season, he’s proud of the success the Gamecocks are having after a rough year in 2015.
More than half of USC’s team was on hand to support Crowe Wednesday night, and coach Chad Holbrook as well as pitching coach Jerry Meyers also attended the game.
“They’re supporting me and they’re there for me. They’re awesome. I can’t give those guys enough credit for what they’ve done for me through this whole thing,” he said. “Seeing them here and hearing them screaming and hollering and acting crazy, it’s always good to have them on my side and have them behind me.”
The MLB Draft will be held next week, and several scouts were on hand to see Crowe pitch for the first time since last April.
Crowe turned down $1.2 million coming out of high school to attend South Carolina, and said he’ll have a number that will have to be reached in order for him to leave USC.
“The draft is the draft. If somebody calls and is willing to give me what I want, and give my family what we’re going to come up with, then we’ll think about it, but right now we’re not worried about that,” Crowe said. “We’re worried about coming out here and pitching and getting my arm back to where it was. This is to knock off the cobwebs and get ready for the fall so I can go out there and compete for a position.”
He added that he’s planning to take classes this summer so that he can be on track to graduate next May. As of now, he plans to pitch for the Gamecocks in 2017.
“The plan is to be here next year, come out in the fall, push the guys to be the best that we can be, and go out and compete for a championship like we are this year,” he said.