10-0 Fellows looks ready to join Vanderbilt’s MLB pipeline

Friday, May 24, 2019, Vol. 43, No. 21
By Chip Cirillo

Junior Drake Fellows has notched 10 consecutive wins despite facing the SEC’s best pitchers each Friday night. Striking out 100 in 85 innings helps.

-- Photograph Courtesy Of Vanderbilt Athletics | Vucommodores.Com

Drake Fellows has put himself in select company. The junior right-hander has become the first Friday night starter to finish the regular season undefeated for Vanderbilt since David Price in 2007.

Fellows is 10-0 with a 4.34 earned run average and a team-high 100 strikeouts in 85 innings.

Price is a five-time all-star who helped lead Boston to a World Series title last season.

“(Drake) is a guy that finds a way to compete all the time,” Commodores coach Tim Corbin says. “He’s just been pretty good that way since his sophomore year. He’s been in the same position, which has probably helped him.”

Fellows has been the Friday night starter – a prized position because those starters open weekend series against SEC opponents – for the past two seasons, a difficult spot to retain on a staff as talented as Vanderbilt’s.

His record is even more impressive when considering he usually faces the opponent’s top pitcher in Southeastern Conference series.

“I just think about myself,” Fellows says. “I don’t really try to think about the other team. I just try to stay in my lane and do what I worked on through the week.”

He helped No. 2-ranked Vanderbilt (45-10) earn the top seed in this week’s SEC Tournament at Hoover, Alabama.

Fellows has improved each year, going 3-3 as a freshman and 7-4 last year. He’s tied for second nationally in wins, trailing Navy’s Noah Song (11-1) and Louisville’s Reid Detmers (11-2).

“I think it’s just being myself,” Fellows adds. “Last year, I kind of got my feet wet with the Friday nights, and I feel like I’m just more comfortable on the mound this year.”

Fellows’ ERA isn’t as good as it was during his freshman (3.30) and sophomore years (3.92), but he’s getting plenty of run support from the Commodores, who rank seventh in the NCAA with 465 runs.

“Definitely the offense has played a big role in that, too,” Fellows explains of his success. “Being able to get a lead pretty early and then stay comfortable throughout the start.”

Seeing a goose egg in the loss column is a good feeling, but the 6-foot-5 Fellows tries not to dwell on it.

“It’s pretty cool, but I try not to think about it too much or it’ll get in my head a little bit,” Fellows continues. “I just try to take it one start at a time. After every start, I kind of focus on what’s coming up next.”

Pitching coach Scott Brown and Fellows watch film of each start to evaluate his strengths and weaknesses.

Fellows, a second-team All-American at Joliet Catholic Academy in Illinois before arriving at Vanderbilt, places an emphasis on getting ahead of hitters with first-pitch strikes. He struck out a career-high 13 in an 11-3 win against Dayton in March.

His main pitches are a two-seam fastball, slider, change-up and the four-seam fastball. His fastball is in the 90-94 mph range, the change-up dips to about 80 mph and the slider is usually in the 81-83-mph range.

He added a split-finger fastball to his arsenal in April.

His slider is tough to hit, partly because it moves in different ways, making it hard to predict.

Vanderbilt leadoff hitter Austin Martin, who ranks second nationally with a .432 batting average, doesn’t hesitate when asked which is Fellows’ nastiest pitch.

“His fastball, honestly,” Martin says. “I mean, he has all good pitches, but his fastball moves like something I’ve never seen before.”

Vandy was set to open SEC tournament play Tuesday, playing the winner of No. 9 seed Tennessee and No. 8 seed Auburn.