Slump Stumper

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 8, 2004

Like rubber, Auburn University Montgomery's Marshall Watts is durable.

It's a fitting quality for a rightnhanded pitcher who spends his time mowing down opposing batters while on the rubber as a pitcher for the Senators' baseball team.

Head Coach Q.V. Lowe is counting on Watts' durability to help lead AUM (38n19, 17n7) to a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) GeorgianAlabamanCarolina Conference tournament title next week. The rightnhander will get the starting nod in the Senators' first game of the tournament on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Patterson Field.

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"Marshall's so durable, he can throw the first day and then come back Saturday and pitch again," Lowe said. "Most of our pitchers can't do that. He's the guy that the whole ball club I feel like looks toward to lead us to where we want to go. The whole ball club responds when he goes out there because they know he's courageous, durable and tough mentally. He goes out and seems to always take everything with him when he goes to the mound."

Watts, 21, currently sports a 9n3 record, which is best among AUM pitchers. The 6nfootn5, 240npound junior hurler has appeared in 14 games and pitched 80.2 innings, while handcuffing 44 batters and allowing only 94 hits and 35 earned runs. Lowe attributes Watts' upbringing for his success.

"He just knows how to win," Lowe said. "He's been raised good by his parents, he's a great kid. He's a kid we never have to worry about. He always takes care of his grades, he takes care of business off the field, he takes care of business on the field, he's a real leader for us in a silent way and all the kids look up to him. He wins because of all those attributes.

"He refuses to give in to any hitter," he added. "He knows how to go out and beat a hitter even if he don't have his best stuff. He's got a very good fastball and a good changeup, but I think his biggest asset is his courage on the mound. He refuses to lose."

Watts, who was named AllnConference last week for the second consecutive season, transferred to AUM last year from Auburn University where he saw limited playing time his freshman year and was red shirted his sophomore season. He led the Senators with a 10n2 record during his first season and caught Lowe's attention.

"Marshall is a coach's dream," Lowe said. "Last year, he was absolutely the best pitcher on the staff. This year, he had a little bit of tendonitis in his shoulder and he had a couple of bad games, but he figured something out and came back and won nine games and made AllnConference. He's a guy we call a slump stopper'. No matter how bad your club's going, you pitch Marshall and good things happen. He keeps the team from going through an extended period of losses."

Watts didn't know Lowe was so confident in him.

"I didn't know he had that much confidence in me," the 2000 Fort Dale Academy graduate said. "To hear that is great. I hope I never let him down. I hope we don't get in a slump from here on out, but if we do, I hope I can stop it."

Being a part of a wellnrounded team is what Watts accredits his success on the mound. He is confident in his teammates.

"I attribute all my wins to the defense, offense and the coaching staff," he said.

He also said being a part of a dominating pitching staff helps take pressure off him.

"It takes pressure off you," Watts said. "If you struggle one day, you can come out in the second inning and let any of your middle relievers or long relievers come in and get the job done."

As for the conference tournament, Watts believes his team has a legit chance at capturing the title.

"To win it, I think we just need to play our game," Watts said. "We played everybody's that's in it and beaten everybody that's in it. We don't need to get too nervous or get uptight."

Lowe agrees.

"If our pitching holds up, I think we've got as good a chance as anybody to win this tournament," Lowe said.

Lowe also believe hosting the tournament will be an advantage for his ball club.

"I think it's big for our guys," Lowe said. "This is where we practice, they get to sleep in their own beds and you like to think that it's our home, so don't come in and win from us. Hopefully our guys will respond to that."

If the Senators win their conference, they will take on the winner of the Florida conference. With a win, they would guarantee a spot in the World Series.

The Texas Rangers and several other Major League Baseball clubs recruited Watts during his senior year at FDA, but he opted to forgo the Draft and play with Auburn, later transferring to AUM. He said if the option to go pro was made available again, he'd jump at the opportunity.

"I would love to go pro if it becomes an option again that would be great," Watts said. "We'll just have to wait and see what happens."