June 13--Making the adjustment from the Midwestern League to the Pac-12 was something that Peyton Fuller knew was going to be quite the challenge.
"Going from the Midwestern League to the Pac-12 is a big jump," Fuller said on Tuesday. "The hitters are definitely on another level in Pac-12 play."
The last 16 months have certainly been one big step up in competition after another for the Ashland High School alum.
Fuller has gone from the high school season with the Grizzlies to summer ball with the Medford Rogues and just completed his freshman year at the University of Oregon.
Even though there is not much slowing down in sight -- a short family trip to Las Vegas this weekend will be followed up by summer ball in Georgia with the Savannah Bananas (seriously, that's the name) -- Fuller is quick to say that his first season with the Ducks was a productive one.
"I got some good innings this year and something I can build off of next year," Fuller said. "I got put in some pretty big situations this year -- some of them went well and some of them didn't. But it was just a huge learning experience for me to get some innings under my belt and come back in next year and hopefully tear it up."
A starting pitcher throughout his career at Ashland High and with the Rogues last summer, Fuller had to adjust to a different kind of role at Oregon.
That of the relief pitcher.
All 16 of Fuller's appearances were out of the Oregon bullpen. In total, he threw 14innings and finished with an ERA of 3.68, striking out 11 batters while walking five.
"I'm very, very fortunate and grateful that I got those innings," Fuller said. "I faced some really good Pac-12 teams like Oregon State, who's probably going to make a deep run (at the College World Series) in Omaha. Their lineup is unreal, and it was a great experience to go up against some of those guys that are first round draft picks.
"It was great to learn from that experience and pitch to them and I think that's invaluable experience going on in my career."
During the course of the season, Fuller faced both of the Pac-12's representation at the College World Series, Oregon State and Washington.
Fuller's final appearance of the season was on May 8 against OSU and served as a chance to right some wrongs from earlier in the year.
Two weeks earlier against those same Beavers, Fuller allowed three runs without getting an out as he saw his ERA on the season double from 2.19 to 4.38.
This time around, though, Fuller pitched 1scoreless innings.
"I came in, did well and had a couple of strikeouts, so that was some cool redemption after I had a tough outing at their place," Fuller said. "It was a good way to end the season on a high note coming back from that outing."
Throughout the season, Fuller knew what his role was in the bullpen, but he didn't necessarily know when his next outing would be.
Fuller admits that the adjustment was no easy one. It took plenty of talking with Oregon pitching coach Jason Dietrich to figure out just how to get an in-game routine down.
"It was definitely something different," Fuller said. "I've never really come out of the bullpen before, so that was a new challenge for me and just learning how to go into a game really quickly because sometimes in the pen you've got a few minutes before you're in the game depending on the situation."
Now that he's working with a NCAA Division I level strength and conditioning program, Fuller says that he's been able to add to his 6-foot-3 frame where he's listed at 170 pounds as well as add a tick or two to his fastball.
During his senior year at Ashland, Fuller threw in the mid- to high-80s.
This season at Oregon, Fuller said he was sitting 91 or 92 and topped out at 93.
It didn't hurt that going into any given outing that he'd be in the game for a relatively small number of outs, so he could let things go a little more than when he was a starting pitcher.
"I was just kinda letting it fly," Fuller said. "I'm definitely a little bit stronger than I was even last summer because of the rigor of the weight training and conditioning and everything we're doing here at Oregon."
Whether 2019 ends up being another season in the bullpen or the chance to start, Fuller is ready for whatever comes his way.
He's got the experience now, and he only wants to build on what he did as a true freshman.
"The biggest thing for me this summer is that I'm going to be working on my off-speed stuff, my slider and my change-up," Fuller said. "Everything is kinda up for grabs next year is what I've gotten with talks from my pitching coach. Everybody is coming in with the ability to win any role, so I'm excited for the opportunity and ready to bust my butt this summer and hopefully get a solid role next season."
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.
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