Expectations were high when Carter Stewart decided to come to Eastern Florida State College after being a first-round draft pick last season in the Major League Baseball Draft.
He has lived up to those expectations, leading Region VIII in strikeouts (96) and ERA (1.84). And on Monday the freshman from Melbourne was named the Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year.
"It feels great. I didn't have any expectations coming in because I didn't know what to expect. I am just happy that I was able to come in and play to my ability and perform for my team and help get some wins," Stewart said.
But it wasn't as easy as he made it look. Stewart had not pitched much before joining the Titans and had to get settled in quickly with the season right around the corner.
"I came in a bit late and the guys really took me in and I appreciate everyone accepting me immediately," Stewart said. "I was away from the game for an extended period of time and just the daily routine of being able to come out and play baseball and be with the guys. With everything that happened, I really just wanted to come in without any expectations on me and concentrate on fitting in and performing the best I can."
He has been able to do just that as the Eau Gallie High graduate heads into the postseason on a strong run, allowing more than one earned run just once in his past eight starts and has struck out eight or more in six of those eight starts.
"I notice there is still some differences between my pitches this year and last but overall I am feeling more comfortable on the mound and getting pitches in for strikes," Stewart said. "My fastball and curveball still feel great and I am developing a slider and getting more confident with that. Same with my changeup, I feel a lot more confident with it this year than I did last year so overall I feel good about where I am."
The right-hander will get the ball in the Titans tournament opener Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. and is looking forward to the postseason.
"Going into the postseason, I am really confident with how my pitches feel and how I am pitching as a whole," Stewart said. "We are just having fun and playing baseball. That is what it comes down to, as long as you are having fun and performing well, that is all you can control."
Overall, Stewart has made 12 starts for the Titans and has allowed just 14 earned runs in 68 1/3 innings this season.
"You know what you are going to get every time out with Carter and he has eaten up some valuable innings this season," Arnold said. "I could argue that him being named Pitcher of the Year is the most impressive, he comes in with the least to prove and the highest profile name and all he has done is gone out and done what he is expected to do and sometimes that is harder to do. Hat's off to him for continuing what he started at a young age and he will continue to do that at the next level as well."