He came into the season as Etowah’s closer, and for the most part, continued to work out that way throughout the season.
But he wasn’t just about firing the ball in nine straight times to get the job done in the seventh inning. His pitches were also about deception.
Coming out of the three-quarters — and sometimes submarine — arm motion, Woods was able to fool opposing hitters with his location and movement.
“Actually, my pitching coach for Etowah (Mike Roga) taught me that,” said Woods, the 2012 Cherokee Tribune Baseball Pitcher of the Year. “I’ve always tried at a three-quarters arm slot. He asked me to try it once, and I found that I got a lot of movement and fell in love with it.
“I feel like it gives me the edge. I actually do switch my arm angle sometimes.”
Woods has the ability to throw the ball over the top, as most hitters and fans alike are used to seeing. During some at-bats, though, he may use all three pitching angles, or just one, depending on his approach to a given hitter.
When does Woods know which arm angle to use?
“That’s hard to answer,” he said. “Some batters I know from summer ball, so I know how to pitch them. Some I just try to bust on the hands and try to get them to roll over or something. I’m not a power, strikeout pitcher.”
Woods finished the season with a 7-2 record and 0.62 ERA, along with four saves and 57 strikeouts. More alarmingly though, he pitched 45 innings. Although Woods was slated to be Etowah’s closer, and he was used most often in that role, it was hard to keep the ball out of his capable pitching hand.
“We just felt like we wanted to see if he could go late in a game,” Etowah coach Greg Robinson said. “It also created a couple of things. It forced us to look at other personnel, with Woods as a starter and someone to put in a closer role if we needed one. It was just a combination of him earning the right to get a look as a starter. I’d be surprised if he started in college just because he is so valuable out of the pen.
“He can throw just about every day. That arm angle doesn’t put quite so much stress on the elbow. I’d expect him to be more of a closer or set-up man in college. But he may end up doing more than that.”
For Woods, it doesn’t really matter how he’s used in games. For him, the only thing that matters is the chance to take the field and make an impact on the game.
“I just love having the ball in my hand,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s for closing or starting, whatever the case may be.”
More than that though, it will be encouraging for Woods once he gets to Armstrong Atlantic State University, the NCAA Division II team he will be playing for next year. Over the course of the season, his arm didn’t tire or weaken. Instead, it strengthened, and the velocity on his pitches actually increased.
“For me, I’m one to work a lot,” Woods said, “so I was always out there on off days, not going hard, but still working on arm strength whether it’s bands or arm care. I didn’t really see (a lot of fatigue).”
Now, with an entire offseason coming up before his freshman year of college, Woods is looking to add either a slider or a changeup to his fastball and curveball, along with adding the additional stamina that he did over the past year.