Junior pitcher strives in set up role

State Hornet Staff

It is not every day that a relief pitcher has thrown the third most innings on the team nearly two thirds the way through the season, but junior pitcher Alex Palsha has embraced his role of the setup man.

Palsha transferred to Sacramento State from the College of San Mateo where he excelled as a starting pitcher. He went 6-5, pitched 77.1 innings and was named to the second team all-Coast Golden Gate Conference.

This season, Palsha has been in the conversation as one of the top pitchers on the team and as of Monday, boasts a 1.49 ERA in 36.1 innings pitched.

But what preceded this success was a bout with an injury that no pitcher wants to have, Tommy John surgery. Named after MLB pitcher Tommy John, the surgery replaces a torn ligament in the elbow with another tendon from the body.

It is a procedure all too common in baseball today, but when Palsha had the surgery performed during his redshirt year at Diablo Valley College, he continued to work in rehab to get to where he is today.

“It was actually really good, it took longer than expected, but once I got into throwing and pitching more, I feel like it got stronger and stronger,” he said. “Up until now, I feel like my arm’s been feeling better than it ever has.”

When he joined the Sac State baseball team, Palsha wanted to start because of his past experience of being a starter at every level he pitched. That mindset has changed as he has learned to enjoy his relief duties, and so far it has been beneficial to the team.

“I would say warming up before games is a little different. Your pre-game strategies are different as a starter compared to a reliever,” Palsha said. “I like the adrenaline coming out of the pen.”

Palsha’s primary role this season has been has been as a set up guy to sophomore closer Sutter McLoughlin, but he’s not pitching the conventional innings a set-up guy would be used in. Head coach Reggie Christiansen has put him in 22 times this season and more than half have seen the right hander throw multiple innings.

“He’s really solidified our bullpen with (Palsha) and Sutter,” Christiansen said. “Those two guys are as good of bullpen, eighth, ninth inning guys in our league. (Palsha) has done very good and continues to get better.”

McLoughlin said that pitching after Palsha gives him confidence to go in and end the game on a strong note.“Yeah, he’s done really good for us, he’s definitely one of the better pitchers on our team,” McLoughlin said. “He usually gets the job done every single time so far.”

Palsha often throws in back-to-back games regardless of which team is winning.

“My arm’s pretty used to it now because I’ve been pitching in so many games,” Palsha said. “Once you get used to it, I feel like your arm adapts to the situation.”

Coming from a community college, Palsha was excited to pitch in Division I conference games.

“I feel like it’s just been really exciting. It’s nice to go up against big competition and play with a good team, especially with Reggie and all the other good coaches around here,” Palsha said.

When he is not trying to strike batters out, he is often studying so he can keep up with his school work.

“It can be distracting especially when you have road trips, but just having a schedule every day and we have academic mentors that help us out a lot to remind us and go over our major courses, and that really helps,” Palsha said. “I feel like our coaches and our mentors did a good job of keeping us as student-athletes on track with homework and our academic work.”

In his free time, Palsha likes to play lawn games and ping pong with friends.

“Relax when I can, or hang out with my roommates at home,” Palsha said. “I like to kick it with kids on my team or play some cornhole, that’s always fun.”

For the rest of the season, Palsha will continue to be a key player on the Hornets pitching staff, and will help Sac State go after the WAC championship.

“I like pitching for those moments, that’s what makes the game fun,” Palsha said.