Roberts success continues in his sophomore campaign at TTU
by Andy Southard | July 10, 2017 7:19 am
Ethan Roberts is a name that many people from White County associate with baseball.
Roberts, a 2015 graduate of White County High School, earned all- district honors all four years of his high school career, and he also was named to the all-state team his senior year. However, now playing at Tennessee Tech University for the past two seasons, Roberts has put his name into the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles record books.
As a TTU freshman, Roberts was named to the Louisville Slugger’s Freshman All-American Team. He was also named to the OVC’s All-Rookie Team. As a sophomore, Roberts has again made his mark in Tennessee Tech history. This year, Roberts broke the single-season saves record, and he was also named first team all-conference.
After a freshman season, where Roberts’ primary role was being brought in out of the bullpen in a middle relief role, Roberts this year took over the closer’s role from the very beginning of the season. Roberts finished the season ranked 17th in the nation in saves with 13 saves in 22 appearances.
“Moving from a reliever to a closer was something different for me,” said Roberts. “As a reliever, sometimes you would have to come in and throw 4-5 innings and have to try and make it that as long as you can, but as a closer, you will usually throw an inning or two and give it everything you have for those one or two innings. Another thing that I had to learn was how to bounce back so I could throw more than one day. Last year, the coach would use me in one game a weekend usually, and I would throw everything I had in that one appearance. This year, I had to be able to throw, on Friday, and possibly throw again, on Saturday or Sunday, if the team needed me.”
Roberts also shed some light on what it was like to be the new single season save record holder.
“It was pretty impressive to break the saves record,” he said. “However, I would not have had those opportunities if we were not winning those games. I have to give some of the credit to my teammates for putting me in those opportunities and getting us the lead. I am also thankful that I was able to step up and get the job done when my coaches put in those situations.”
Roberts also helped lead the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles baseball team to an OVC regular season title and tournament title, which was the first time a TTU team had done that since 1997.
Roberts talked about what it was like winning the OVC Regular season and tournament titles.
“Winning the OVC this year was the best feeling in the world,” he said. “It is a feeling I will never forget. We battled together all season, and we earned the conference title. I have always had dreams of winning a title and getting a ring. Now that I have that feeling of winning one, it makes me want it even more.”
The Golden Eagles also made it to the NCAA Baseball Tournament for the first time since the 2009 season. The Golden Eagles would have the tough task and travel down to Florida State University and played in the legendary Dick Howser Stadium and had to take on Florida State and legendary coach Mike Martin. The Golden Eagles pulled an unlikely four vs. one upset winning the first game of the tournament 3-1. The Golden Eagles would then face off against a SEC opponent in Auburn. The Golden Eagles would fall to Auburn 5-3 to fall into the losers bracket and have the tough task of trying to beat Florida State for the second time in three days. The Golden Eagles could not prevail, as they lost 5-3 and ended their sensational season.
The Golden Eagles broke several school records this season, including for wins with 41. It was also the first time in Head Baseball Coach Matt Bragga’s tenure that the team defeated multiple, nationally-ranked opponents. One of those teams was Vanderbilt University, in which Roberts earned the save in the game.
When I asked Roberts what it was like playing in a Regional and Dick Howser Stadium, he said, “Playing in a regional was like nothing I had ever felt before. There were over 2,000 people in the stadium at every single game we played in. The stadium and the field were by far in my top three of nicest stadiums and fields I have ever played on in my life, but being there with my team, we felt like we belonged. We felt like we deserve to be on the same stage as those teams, and we proved that we belonged there, getting a win against Florida State. Winning that game against a team like Florida State and all the baseball history that school has was another top moment in my life.”
While being in a reliever role, Roberts has seen much success in both his freshman and sophomore season. In his rookie season, Roberts led the Golden Eagles in wins and had the lowest ERA on the team. As a sophomore, Roberts broke the single season saves record and is second in the Golden Eagles record book for saves in a career with 15. Roberts also broke the record for Most Consecutive Strikeouts in a game with nine, on April 14, 2017, vs. Murray State. He would also finish the season with the second-most strikeouts on the team with 73. However, looking at next season, Roberts has his eyes set on much more.
“I want to try and work my way into a starting role,” he said. “We are losing all our weekend starters for next season, so that means I must work very hard so I can earn that spot next spring. Personally, I want to try to earn All-American honors again like I did my freshman season. However, the most important thing, I want our team to dominate and win the OVC again. I hope to play a significant role in that. The team success is what matters more than any of the individual awards.”
As far as his success these past two seasons, Roberts noted, “Having this much success in my first two years of college baseball was a confidence boost and puts my name out there for everyone to see. It makes me feel good, but also puts pressure on me for next season.”
With the dream of making it to the big leagues still a possibility, Roberts also realizes that it is a long path, and he still has many hurdles to overcome. He is also making sure he has a backup plan. One of his long-term goals is to get his college degree. Roberts is majoring in sociology, with a focus on criminal justice with the hopes of one day working with the TBI or as a state trooper.
When Roberts talks about his future goals, he hopes baseball has a place in it.
“I know I have to get my degree, but I have a goal of seeing how far I can take my baseball career,” he said. “I would love to get the opportunity to play professionally. I have one more full baseball season before I am eligible for the draft. I am going to try my best to get my name out there and get drafted.”
Roberts, who is eligible for the June Draft, in 2018, will look to make his mark next season. He had plans to play this summer in the Cape Cod League. The Cape Cod Summer League is one of the most prolific baseball summer leagues known and where many college baseball athletes go and play to get their name known by scouts. However after the innings that Roberts logged from this past season and talking it over with his coach, his coach decided that it would be better for him to take the summer off and rest his arm. However, Roberts will keep pursuing his dream in hopes of one day taking his game to the ultimate level.