Challenger heats up as Sun Belt play begins

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Kevin Keneely

Evan Challenger, starting pitcher for Georgia Southern, has had a great start to his career at Georgia Southern, while overcoming a detrimental injury after his freshman year.

Challenger was named preseason All-Sun Belt going into the 2016 season.

His success can be traced back to his passion for baseball. He takes baseball day-by-day, never letting anything distract him from his goal, which is to get better everyday.

Growing up, his favorite pitcher to watch was Jamie Moyer.

“In high school I liked watching Jamie Moyer because he didn’t throw hard, I never threw hard, so I liked how he still got guys out and competed in the MLB without being a flamethrower,” Challenger said.

While in high school, Challenger had no idea what position he was going to play in college till he was an upperclassman.

“I originally didn’t think I was going to go to college as a pitcher,” Challenger said. “The first opportunity I had to go to a college was as an outfielder and so I think around my junior year of high school that that was the path I was going to take, but yeah really realize that till my junior year of high school that pitching would be my way to go.”

His freshman year, he posted a 4.23 ERA while going 1-1 in five starts.

After his freshman season, he had to take a medical redshirt and postpone his sophomore campaign another year.

Challenger had to go in for Tommy-John surgery after tearing his UCL.

Tommy-John is one of the scariest injuries a pitcher can get. The injury has been known to end many pitchers careers, but in Challengers case, it has also been known that pitchers come back better than they were before.

Last season, Challenger posted a team-best 2.03 ERA over 14 starts. He became known as the “ace”, being the first pitcher in the rotation and pitching in all the big games.

The role of being an ace usually brings on more responsibility as a leader.

“I think I just come down and try to lead by example, I’m not much of a vocal leader but I think I just go about stuff the right way and I think that’s the way to do it,” Challenger said.

Coming off his best season at Georgia Southern, he continues to find things to improve on.

“I think just controlling my off speed a little more. I’ve added some more pitches this year so I’m working on making that a part of my everyday pitching,” Challenger said.

Everyday Challenger comes out and is working hard to be better than he was last season.

This season, he has already tied a career high with nine strikeouts in a game against Radford.

In his previous three starts, Challenger has been almost lights out pitching a combined 21.1 innings and has only given up three earned runs while racking up 15 strikeouts and two victories.

Challenger is 3-2 on the season with a 2.43 and 25 strike outs, putting him on pass to set career highs in both wins and strikeouts this season. His current highs in those categories are five wins and 58 strikeouts over 14 starts, both of which were accomplished last season.