Peterson has transferred to Milligan College from Tennessee, where he went 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA this past season as a junior. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-hander struck out 21 and walked eight in 29 1-3 innings for the Volunteers.
Peterson will have a larger workload at Milligan. In addition to pitching, Milligan coach Nathan Meade said the former Unaka three-sport star could start at shortstop.
Another attraction for Peterson was Milligan assistant coach Ray Smith, who is also the Elizabethton Twins manager. Peterson was drafted in the 40th round by the Texas Rangers out of high school, and said he hopes Smith can help him generate more pro interest.
“Ray had a lot to do with it,” Peterson said. “I’ve known him most of my life. That was a very good thing that interested me.”
So did playing shortstop and batting — “I’m still a little rough around the edges,” he said — and being in the starting rotation.
“You know how accomplished he is on the mound and what he’s done up to this point, but it’s kind of like a new challenge for him and I think he’s really excited,” Meade said. “I know he’s worked his tail off this summer. We’re excited to have him.”
Peterson went 14-4 in two seasons at Walters State before transferring to UT.
“I know he enjoyed his time, obviously, at Walters State and he enjoyed his time at Tennessee,” Meade said. “And I know he’s looking forward to having a consistent role on the pitching staff as a starter. And that challenge of having the opportunity to be a position player is something that really intrigued him. ... He’s an athlete and he wants to compete in every way possible.”
Peterson has looked like a natural taking ground balls, which is not surprising for a versatile athlete that set passing records in football and was also all-conference in basketball at Unaka.
“Honestly, I’m very pleased with where he’s at mechanically and fundamentally,” Meade said. “So far, he’s looked pretty good. He’s got some things we need to tighten up, but the biggest thing is he’s a workaholic.”
A lot of two-way college players are used in relief roles, but Peterson is happy that he appears destined for the starting rotation.
“Ideally, I think it is better if you’re a closer,” Meade said. “But he’s a unique athlete. He’s very talented. ... We have to protect his arm, and this is something he and I have already talked about. It’s something, as we go throughout the fall, that we’re gonna have to manage very carefully, you know, not overdoing it. But still yet, he’s been out of a position for three years now, so he’s got some rust that we’ve gotta work on.”
The majority of the rust has been seen in the batting cage.
“Unaka was the last time I’d picked up a bat,” Peterson said with a chuckle.
Meade wouldn’t be surprised if Peterson ends up being an asset at the plate.
“You go two weeks without hitting and you’re all to pieces,” Meade said. “You go three years and that really kind of throws you off. So he’s got some timing issues. ... It’s something we’re gonna have to work at but he’s committed to it.”
Peterson is excited about being able to play in front of family and friends on a regular basis.
“I loved being at UT and Walters State and met a lot of great people,” Peterson said, “but being home close to friends and family’s special, too.”
Meade was also eager to mention three other recruits — 17-year-old catcher-first baseman Bryan Soto, right-handed pitcher Wyatt Richardson and outfielder Jacob Daily.
Soto’s brother Edwin was an all-conference player at Milligan this past season as a junior. Bryan is a left-handed hitter, and his promising bat is ahead of his defense.
“Once Edwin was here, he said, ‘Coach, my brother’s in the Dominican (Republic) and he’d really like to come play ball here,’” Meade said. “I said, ‘We’ve got to make sure he can play. We’re not gonna sign him just because he’s your brother, no offense.’ He ended up playing for a school down in Florida this spring. ... He’s a good player.”
Richardson is a 6-foot-4, 215-pounder out of Delaware. He’s throwing consistently at 85-88 mph, according to Meade.
“Man, you talk about some upside,” Meade said. “This kid is raw. He’s got a strong arm, big frame. ... He might be a guy in a couple of years that we’re really talking about quite a bit, if not sooner.”
Daily hit .329 last season at Lake Land College (Illinois).
“He’s got a plus arm in the outfield and he can really go get it,” Meade said. “He’s gonna leg out a lot of doubles. ... I really like where we’re at with the players we’re bringing in and the guys we have coming back.”
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