Every once in a while in sports, a player comes along and gives a performance that announces his name on the big stage. This past Sunday's game at Hitchcock Field may be remembered as the moment when a new 'star was born' for Auburn Baseball.
The player's name is Derek Varnadore, write it down, before he is through ... his is a name that will be added to a long list of Tiger greats. He is a 20 year old junior who played his high school ball at Oconee High in Athens, Ga. where he had a career ERA of 1.86 and struck out 133 batters in 104 innings.
After high school, he pitched for Coach Adam Thomas at Chattahoochee Valley Community College (CVCC) in Phenix City, Ala. He had an ERA of 3.64, 193 strike outs, and was a First Team All Southern Division All Star.
In Sunday's game, he conjured up memories of another great CVCC product and Auburn All American, Tim Hudson.
It only took Derek 2:04 minutes to pitch a two hit shutout against Radford University. The speed with which he set batters down made for the shortest game in eight years for the Auburn Baseball Team.
Varnadore pitched a complete game and fanned 13 batters, the most by an Auburn pitcher in the past 12 years. Of his13 K's, seven were the first batters of an inning and four were the last outs in an inning. He was named the SEC Pitcher of the Week for his performance in Auburn's 2-0 win over Radford.
I know some are thinking he's only pitched two games thus far for Auburn, how can you call him a star? Well consider this; in two starts he has not surrendered a run in17 innings, has only allowed five hits and three walks, while striking out 17 batters.
He was magnificent - his look, his control, his change of rhythm, and especially his fastball unnerved and confused the Highlander batters. If you haven't seen him pitch yet, he's worth the time and effort to take a trip to the Plains.
"He was outstanding," Auburn Coach John Pawlowski said. "That's probably as good a pitching performance one through nine as I've seen in a long time. He was in complete command."
For his part, Derek was humble in victory preferring to share his success with his teammates. "Everything was working for me today. Tony (Caldwell) was framing everything nice. The defense played great once again. It was fun."
Varnadore may just be what the doctor ordered, for a team of proven hitters that is still trying to find its way with the new NCAA mandated dulled bats. Great pitching is important now more than ever since teams have to play small ball to eke out wins.
Signed out of CVCC with the hope of becoming the third starter in the rotation, he may just become Auburn's Ace. When that happens, people will look back at Sunday February 27th as the day that - on the mound at Hitchcock Field ...
A star was born.