KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Garrett Stallings never considered himself a strikeout pitcher. In his first two seasons on Rocky Top he combined for 76’s K’s, that put him 4th best on the Vols pitching staff in both years.
Now, in his junior season, Stallings is a strikeout pitcher. The 2019 season began for Stallings with a new career high in K’s in each of his first three appearances on the mound.
“I struck out eight, then nine, then ten which was pretty cool for me because I think my career high was five coming into the season,” Stallings said.
There’s no question two seasons working with Vols Pitching Coach Frank Anderson can, and has, changed the mechanics of his game. He’s also found a new approach to the mental side of things through his involvement with the VOLeaders Academy and their summer trip to Ecuador.
”I think just kind of putting things into perspective,” Stallings said. “It is just a game that we play and life is so much bigger than that.”
VOLeaders is a class incomparable to most others available in the University of Tennessee’s course guide. The program shows student-athletes their platform through sports. Teaching students how to positively impact their team and campus as well as local and global communities. Stallings spent several weeks connecting with kids whose native tongue differs from his own and upbringing hardly mirrors his own.
“You can love somebody without even knowing them,” Stallings said. “Being able to connect well with others without even knowing where they’ve been or what shoes they’ve been in.”
Those lessons just a dent in the many he learned through the experience – but Stallings says from what he’s learned the carryover to the diamond this season is evident.
The Vols Ace leads Tennessee’s starting pitchers in both strikeouts and ERA this season. Things have mostly gone his way, but when they don’t, he reverts back to his trip to South America and regains perspective.
“I think it takes it down to you have to have fun with it, you have to love it,” Stallings said. “Not always is it going to go your way and you have to find a way to move on from it, live with it and improve your game from there.”