Thursday, June 26, 2014
Does it get much more American than representing the country?
Skylar Hunter is getting that opportunity.
Hunter, a former Hanahan High School standout and current Citadel closer, was invited to play for the USA Collegiate National Team that will represent the country over a five-week period this summer. He’s one of 13 pitchers vying for the final seven spots on the travel squad.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling obviously,” Hunter said by phone on Wednesday, June 18 from Harwich, Mass.
He’s been playing with the Harwich Mariners of the Cape Cod League, arguably the top summer wood bat league for college players in the country. He made two relief appearances, striking out three and saving one game for the Mariners before heading for the national training complex in Cary, N.C. on June 19.
First up for the Collegiate National Team is the Red, White and Blue Tour in various venues across South Carolina and North Carolina from June 21-30. Hunter threw an inning of scoreless relief Sunday in a 4-2 win over a select team from the Coastal Plain League. He was expected to throw again on Tuesday against the Fayetteville Swamp Dogs of the CPL.
The USA squad, managed by Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn, will be trimmed down to 12 position players and 12 pitchers after the tour.
“I feel good about my velocity,” Hunter said. “I’m relaxed. I know what I can do.”
The squad will host Chinese Taipei in North Carolina from July 1-5 in Cary, Shelby, Charlotte and Durham before taking on Japan July 6-8.
The big payoff comes at the end, with international trips to The Netherlands and Havana, Cuba to represent the United States on another country’s soil.
Hunter feels like he’s grown personally over the last couple of weeks and experiences like those would only help him moving forward. Next June, he will likely be a target of the Major League Baseball draft.
“Before a few weeks ago, I hadn’t ever left the Southeast,” he said. “I hadn’t been on a plane. Then I flew 18 hours away to come up here and play in the Cape. I’m trying to make a name for myself.”
Two seasons ago at the Citadel, Hunter was named a freshman all-American and this past spring Hunter fashioned a 1.67 ERA, striking out 44 batters in 43 innings pitched over 29 appearances. He saved 15 of The Citadel’s 24 victories. Counting the 13 he had as a freshman, Hunter is just one short of tying the Citadel record for career saves.
There’s a strong possibility he’ll move into a starter’s role next season for the Bulldogs. He sits between 92 and 95 mph on the radar gun and can rev it up there as high as 96 or 97.
“I can go the distance if I need to,” he said. “It’s just a different level of conditioning in preparation to be a starter. I know I can do all the work necessary.”
But first he wants to take a couple more plane flights.