For the first time in his life, Konner Wade couldn’t get hitters out consistently.
It was the middle of the 2012 season and Pac-12 teams were seemingly taking their turn beating up the Arizona Wildcats starter.
Utah, 15 games under .500 at the time, got him for five runs. A week later, UCLA knocked him out after three innings, 10 hits and five earned runs. USC and Arizona State roughed Wade up, too, handling him — and the Wildcats — losses later in the season.
“I’ve never really been hit like that before,” Wade said. “That was a first. It was tough at times, but every baseball player needs to go through that.”
It wasn’t fun, but it was necessary.
Wade will get the ball Friday night in the Wildcats’ season opener against Coppin State and should toe the rubber every Friday night after that. He was the Wildcats’ best pitcher during last summer’s run to a College World Series championship.
Before that, though, he was humbled.
“We’re dealing with young guys and they are going to have bumps in the road at some point,” pitching coach Shaun Cole said. “For me, the best way to handle that is don’t freak out and treat them the same.
“There were some mechanical things, but it was more mental than anything.”
So Cole and Wade went to work.
They talked about throwing through the catcher’s mitt. They talked about keeping his front side closed when he delivered a pitch, so it didn’t sail on him. But they focused most on having fun and getting back to the reliable, solid pitcher he was in his first year and a half with the program.
Wade responded well to the impromptu therapy sessions.
He was 4-0 in four postseason starts, sporting a 1.29 ERA. He hurled two complete games at the College World Series, including a shutout of the same Bruins team that teed off on him two months earlier.
He looked like an ace — like a Friday night starter.
Read more about Wade in Thursday's Arizona Daily Star.