Apr. 9—On the surface, not much has changed.
Trevor Olson hasn't made any major adjustments to his mechanics or his pitching arsenal. He's not delving deep into advanced stats seeking hidden secrets to success or trying unconventional training methods.
But the Chippewa Falls native has made a subtle addition to his bag of tricks, and it has made all the difference.
It's impressive what a little bit of confidence can do for you.
Olson's confidence has soared this spring, and his performances have gone right along with it. The Xavier senior has made a huge leap since his junior season, ranking among the best pitchers in the Big East Conference this year.
He's gone from a work in progress to an ace in the making. Heading into this weekend, the imposing southpaw ranks fourth in the Big East in both ERA (2.35) and strikeouts (33) among starters.
"One of the big keys to pitching is having confidence," Olson said. "So many guys at this level already have the stuff coming in, but if you're not pitching with confidence and attacking hitters, you're not going to get guys out. I think for me, the key has just been staying confident with everything that I throw and attacking everyone — throwing my best stuff and forcing the hitter to hit it instead of trying to not get hit."
So far, not many hitters have been able to do so.
Olson is 2-1 entering this weekend's series with St. John's. In seven appearances, including four starts, he's allowed just 19 hits and nine walks.
"He's just throwing the baseball with an extreme amount of confidence right now," Xavier pitching coach Brian Furlong said. "He's definitely cleaned some things up — his delivery and arm slot have gotten a little better, his breaking ball has improved — but more so than anything, I think it's really just a belief in his own abilities."
As he's had more time to get comfortable at the college level, Olson has been able to arm himself with more confidence. He posted a 10.97 ERA in the shortened 2020 season and a 6.19 ERA out of the bullpen in 2019.
But after several years of watching and learning, he's put it all together.
"Being a senior now, it's just something I've seen in other guys ahead of me," Olson said. "Just seeing that kind of bulldog mentality of 'I'm going to throw this stuff, and you're not going to hit it,' and talking about that with them has really helped me get in that mindset and grow into the pitcher I am today."
Xavier (9-13) has a fluid pitching rotation, but Olson has earned the coveted role of Friday night starter more than any other Musketeer. At the Division I level, teams generally pitch their ace on Fridays, which is typically the first game of a series.
Olson has started each of Xavier's first four Friday games this season — something he said he could get used to.
"I just like that it's a team's first look at things, and I get to be the guy to go out there and give it my best shot to show them what this team's all about," Olson said. "I think it helps that my teammates have a lot of trust in me to go out there and get the job done, and I reciprocate that trust in them. It's just a tone-setter role, and I don't know if I was necessarily ready for it as a freshman, but I've grown and as I've pitched with more confidence, I've been ready to set the tone."
The Chi-Hi graduate won't start this Friday — the Musketeers want to get him additional rest — but will take the mound on Sunday to close out the series with the Red Storm.
"He's definitely pitching like our Friday night starter right now," Furlong said. "We've just got three actual, legitimate aces right now, and Trevor's pitching the best out of the three right now."
Olson was a strikeout machine during his days with the Cardinals, and he has now recaptured that form at the college level. He struck out eight in 6.2 innings of work during a 6-1 win over Evansville in late March, and followed the feat with nine strikeouts in 4.2 innings against Dayton last week.
His 33 punchouts lead all Xavier pitchers, and have been one of the reasons why hitters are only batting .173 against him this spring.
"I think it comes from having a lot of trust," Olson said. "Trusting in my catcher and coaches to call the right pitches, but also trust in myself to put it in the right spot so the hitter can't get to it. I think it's all about trust, if I'm completely honest."
Olson is aiming to see how far he can go in the sport. He'd like to continue playing after his Xavier days are over, and his performances this year are helping him get noticed.
Well-built lefties usually catch a scout's eyes. When they show they can get the job done at a high level, things get serious.
"He's honestly been on scouts' radars over the past couple of years, just by being a 6-foot-6 lefty who throws really hard," Furlong said. "I think putting it together from a performance standpoint really kind of cements his ability to take that next step and hopefully pursue it at the next level."