Former La Roche College baseball All-American pitcher, Tanner Wilt, is continuing his career as a relief pitcher for the Frontier League's River City Rascals. Wilt joins four other Redhawks who signed professional contracts (George Nahay, Tyler Ferguson, Alex Simone, David Lemley).
Wilt concluded his collegiate career in 2016. He helped the Redhawks win the NCAA Mideast Regional and earn a spot in the College World Series. He closed the regional championship game and picked up a complete game victory over Wisconsin-Whitewater in the first game of the world series. He was named an All-American, All-Region, AMCC Pitcher of the Year, and AMCC All-Conference First Team.
Wilt became a free agent after graduation and River City Rascals' Manager Steve Brook reached out to him June of that year. Wilt signed a contract in 2017 but an injury kept him sidelined for the remainder of the season. He kept active and the Rascals extended his contract through the 2018 season.
Wilt joined River City in spring training but it was no guarantee he'd make the everyday roster. The Rascals came in with 45 players and rosters had to be trimmed down to 24 by early May. Competition was steep as Wilt was one of only five first year rookies. Most players were drafted or came from NCAA Division 1 and 2 programs. However, Wilt's performance was strong throughout the spring and he made the cut.
"I was nervous coming in because I had been out of competition for a while. But the first two days, I touched mid 90s. I've been sitting in the low 90s and my command has been good and in the zone".
Wilt has been working mostly in the seventh and eighth innings. While primarily a starter on campus, the relief role is not new to Wilt. He was a closer and late inning pitcher at Pitt and in the Coastal Plain League.
"My stuff is a little more electric out of the bullpen. It's better in short spurts and physically it's a little more effective at this point."
Wilt highlighted the importance to keep pushing himself but also enjoy moment. "Everybody at this level is really good and nothing is guaranteed. You can never get too comfortable because each pitch could be your last."
So far, Wilt has made his opportunity count. He has scoreless outings in 5 of 6 appearances and has allowed just 2 runs and 3 hits in 6.1 innings of work. The Rascals currently lead the Frontier League West Division.
The River City Rascals are located about 45 minutes west of St. Louis, MO. Like many minor league teams, the Rascals work with local families to help players adjust to their new homes. Wilt had planned to lodge with a local family through spring training, but the experience has worked out well and he will continue the accommodations through the season.
The Rascals play 98 game regular seasons and 6 games a week (3 game series). River City is the furthest team to the west and the Washington Wildthings are the furthest road trip east. Wilt and the Rascals will come to Washington, PA for a three game series on August 3-5.
Wilt keeps in touch with Coach Chase Rowe and his former teammates. He still provides pitching instruction and weight training programs to the baseball program and credits La Roche as helping to further his baseball career. "Being around the program was huge and I really appreciate the access to the facilities. Without the program and the guys, I'd be driving around everywhere trying to find guys to throw with.
Wilt and the Rascals are in the middle of a six game road trip and take the field tonight against the Gateway Grizzlies (Sauget, IL). They will travel to the Cincinnati Area on Friday before returning home on June 5.