Wil Jensen, a sophomore
right-handed pitcher on the Pepperdine's baseball team, tells us about how he
is feeling about his tremendous start to the season (3-0, 0.62 ERA in 29.0
innings) and where he hopes to go from here:
Q: Your season has been off to a good start. How are you feeling about playing at this level?
A: Honestly, I am excited but I know how baseball is the most humbling game. You can never let yourself get a big head because then you won't be able to maintain consistent success. I am just trying to stay focused on what I have been doing, keep it the same, keep working on throwing strikes and hitting my spots and I think it has been working out.
Q: How have you been pitching so well? Do you have any secrets or rituals?
A: Our pitching coach is huge into the mental side of baseball and I think he is a genius. He has us do a lot of visualization and picturing yourself having success. Last year I remember doubting myself at different times, not necessarily when I was on the mound, but before the game. But this year if I think a bad thought I will instantly dismiss it and convince myself I can do it and I feel like it has been working. I also started throwing a different pitch, a slider, where it looks like a fastball but at the last second it drops, so that has helped a ton. Throwing strikes also helps because it builds confidence, versus when you walk somebody and give them a free base, that's demoralizing since there is almost always a direct correlation between walks and runs scored. Basically just limiting the walks and any freebies, and by stopping that will lead to success in my opinion.
Q: What do you expect from yourself from this point on?
A: I think that goes along with the mental side of it. I need to just continue to do what I am doing and not let the game speed up. Hopefully it will keep lining up and I'll keep having success.
Q: How does it feel to be Pepperdine's ace?
A: It's awesome. I got to watch two guys last year that were ahead of me and to see how they approached it every time they were about to pitch. That was a great learning experience because now I will take bits and pieces from them and apply it to myself on the mound. It is exciting because my hope for whenever I am pitching is that we have confidence that we can win any game. To have people be able to rely on me is a nice feeling.
Q: How do you feel you have grown from last year to this year?
A: Strength-wise I've had a huge increase since I came in last year at like 150. So from then I have gained a lot of strength, weight and a little bit of velocity. I have come from 88 mph last year to a consistent 90-91. Also mentally, I just don't doubt myself like I used to.
Q: What are your goals this season for the team and for yourself?
A: For the team I think I speak for all the guys in that we want to go to the College World Series in Omaha, which I think we can. This year I think our team is stacked and we can be really good as long as we just focus on staying consistent with pitching and hitting. If we do that I think we would be able to beat anyone. For my personal goals I'd love to keep my ERA below a 3 and a lot more wins than losses. I'd also like to try and double my strikeouts from last year, which I think I can do since I added my new pitch.
Q: Do you feel offseason workouts helped the team bond and have led to why you are doing well now?
A: We do this workout called down-backs, which are just awful. Every Tuesday morning last fall at 5:30 a.m., and there is just no way you don't come together with the guys when you are all going through the same pain. Our trainer acts super tough at that time by yelling at us and all that and the only way you can succeed is if you are picking up your team. So now I think we all really like each other and get along, which is awesome. I think these past experiences are playing a role now in helping us win games. Especially with the help from our strength coach who is such a great guy and really knows how to bring the team together.
Q: Are there any upcoming games you are excited for?
A: I am from Utah and was recruited by BYU a little bit. But last year I pitched against BYU and threw probably one of my worst games. So I am excited to do the opposite this year.
Q: How long have you been playing baseball?
A: Probably since I was like 4 or 5, back in the tee ball days. I definitely have had a lot of reps on my arm.
Q: What made you pick pitcher as your position?
A: In high school I played second base, a little shortstop, and I hit too. I am not going to lie but in the end that is what I am in love with when it comes to baseball. I would also pitch and that is what I feel I was most successful in. When you get to college you have to decide to be a pitcher full time or a position player full time. If I wanted to go to a school with a baseball background like this, I had to decide which I was best at. In high school pitching was always a second thing but now it is cool to focus solely on pitching, different pitches, repetition and other ways to get better. Plus, I think it is cool to see how just being a pitcher has helped me in the long run.
Q: Why Pepperdine?
A: First off, even though I know everyone says this, but the view is unbelievable. But mainly I know how hard it is to make it to the MLB so I had to think out of all the schools, which has the most academic integrity. A degree from Pepperdine is top notch. The coaches, especially the pitching coach, are awesome. I love him since he was different than the other pitching coaches I met. He is the nicest guy I've ever met and he knows every pitcher is different, plus his views on the mental game have helped. Finally, I wanted to go to a school for baseball where I could make a difference right away and get better right away. I felt like I was wanted here. Last year I got to start on Sundays to where I am now I feel like I can have a sort of leadership role, which is really cool and makes it fun.