Alex Robles didn’t start his college baseball career on the best note.
The Austin Peay freshman committed an error at third base — his new position — on his first play of the season.
Then, Robles allowed 10 runs – just one earned – in two innings of work in his first start on the mound.
Luckily, things only got better from there.
Robles, a Tucson High School product, was named the Ohio Valley Conference’s Rookie of the Year and a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American after he led the Governors with a .349 batting average and totaled 39 RBIs.
The two-way player also emerged as one of the team’s top pitchers, going 6-2 with a 3.63 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 84⅓ innings on the mound.
“I always knew he’d be a shining star wherever he went,” Tucson coach Oscar Romero said. “It’s just a shame that a guy like that left the state of Arizona.”
Robles, the Star’s 2013 Baseball Player of the Year, is back in Southern Arizona for the summer. He’ll spend the next two months playing for Tucson Post 7, an American Legion wood bat team managed by Romero.
The Star recently sat down with Robles to recap his freshman year. Here are four games that defined his season:
Opponent: No. 14 Tennessee
Result: Tennessee 8, Austin Peay 7 (12 innings)
What he did: Batting in the No. 3 spot, Robles went 3 for 5 with two runs scored and a walk. He also pitched a scoreless 11th inning against the host Vols.
He said it: “At that point, you kind of lose your mind, you forget they’re No. 14. You want to take it to them. It brought me back to the state playoffs, when we played (Scottsdale) Desert Mountain. They had Division I signees, but we didn’t. Obviously Tennessee had future MLB draftees on the roster; we didn’t care.”
Result: Austin Peay 3, Belmont 0
What he did: Robles threw a complete-game one-hitter with nine strikeouts and two walks. He retired the final 11 batters he faced to secure the first one-hitter by an Austin Peay pitcher since 1997. Robles also had some special guests in attendance as Tucson assistant coach Mark Morris and his wife, Elisa, traveled to Belmont’s campus in Nashville, Tennessee, to see the game.
He said it: “I showed people I could pitch at the Division I level. That’s when I found my mechanics, what I was supposed to feel like when I released a pitch. I started to see my change-up and splitter working. I try to remember that feeling, my arm slot, where I released it.”
Opponent: Eastern Kentucky
Result: Austin Peay 6, Eastern Kentucky 5
What he did: In his first start after the one-hitter, Robles struck out a career-high 13 batter in seven innings with one walk and one earned run. He also went 1 for 4 with a run scored as the cleanup hitter.
He said it: “I stayed down in the zone that day and that’s crucial, especially with metal bats. My split and my change-up were on. They were swinging right over the top of it, every time.”
Result: Austin Peay 13, Tennessee-Martin 12
What he did: It was senior weekend and the rubber match of a series that would determine if the Govs would be eliminated from the conference tournament. Robles came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded, one out and his team down three runs.
After a wild pitch brought in a run, Robles turned on a fastball for a game-tying two-run double off the left-center wall. One batter later, Robles beat the throw home with a head-first slide to score the game-winning run.
He said it: “It was that perfect moment. I have pictures; we looked so intense and happy. It was season- saving. For me to be able to come through not only for myself, but for my team, for the seniors, it was awesome.”