05/12/2016 1:35 PM -
Whiting, Ind. – May 12, 2016 – Though it may have been lost in the shuffle of a compelling, three-game playoff series against the Lexington Snipes, Christian Howell delivered one of the most noteworthy performances of the 2015 Midwest Collegiate League Semifinals.
The Minnesota State Mankato sophomore right-handed pitcher, who will return for a second season with the Northwest Indiana Oilmen, was summoned in relief for every game of the series.
Howell, a native of Aurora, Ill. and graduate of Metea Valley High School, started against rival DuPage County on Wednesday, July 29 in an important regular-season game. He held the Hounds to an unearned run on five hits over five innings. After two days off, he pitched 3 1/3 innings on Saturday, two innings on Sunday and 1 2/3 innings on Monday in the series against the Snipes.
“He’s a bounce-back guy,” Oilmen manager Adam Enright said after the Game 3 loss. “He doesn’t really warm up. He’ll take two pitches to get hot, and then he’ll just sit in the dugout and wait until he goes in. He’s not a guy who takes any time to rebound or get hot. He’s a very wiry frame guy with a loose arm. He’s been great for us this year.”
Howell finished the regular season with a 1.87 ERA over 52 1/3 IP, posting a 2-1 record in nine games (five starts) while issuing 16 walks and striking out 29. The Oilmen hope he’ll duplicate that success as he returns for a second summer of baseball in Northwest Indiana.
“I decided to come back to the area for the summer, and what better place to play than with the Oilmen?” Howell said. “Last season, I had nothing but a ton of fun, so I decided to give it a go again. Enright is awesome; he’s a great coach. I met a ton of new guys that I played with and they are all very supportive. We had a lot of fun.”
Howell said he’ll focus on his sinker and fastball over the summer as he looks to complement his already-strong off-speed pitches. He also mentioned getting ahead early in counts as a summer goal.
The average pitcher needs 15-20 pitches in the bullpen, mixing all pitches, to prepare for game action. Howell is a unique specimen, needing only five to six fastballs to get loose.
“I don’t know exactly how to explain it,” he said. “I have a lot of tenacity; it’s a lot of arm preparation and a lot of care. I guess the rubber arm is just a gift.”
Howell has pitched sparingly at Division-II Minnesota State Mankato this spring. The Mavericks hold a 34-14 record and have strung together 11 consecutive victories. Howell is looking forward to receiving regular innings and the chance to hone his skills over the summer with the Oilmen.
This year, Howell changed his major from automotive engineering to interdisciplinary studies. The move has presented him the chance to spend more time doing what he loves most: pitching.
“Unfortunately, any athlete can attest that when you have a major that requires a lot of hands-on work like mine did, sometimes it doesn’t work out with your practice schedule,” he said. “I need to be on the field at practice as much as I can, so I made that change to have some success on the baseball field.”