Evan Geist leaves his ego behind these days when he puts on his Marist baseball uniform. A stint in the bullpen will do that to a starting pitcher.
Geist has a wicked curve ball and a scholarship to Florida State University but discovered midseason he wasn’t being as good a teammate as he could be. Coach Mike Strickland moved Geist to the bullpen for nearly three weeks of the season and relegated the senior to closer duties.
When he returned to the starting rotation, he flourished, earning complete game wins in his first two state playoff appearances. He had 21 strikeouts in 14 innings to help the War Eagles advance to the Class AAAA semifinals. Marist beat Whitewater in a doubleheader May 24 to advance to the finals.
“Not starting helped me take a back seat and take in what was happening,” Geist said. “I love my teammates and I wanted to be there for those guys. I started to pitch better when I played more for them.”
Said Strickland, “He’s grown into a situation where he’s been able to take advantage of his skills.”
Geist has been effective as a starter and in relief. Heading into the semifinal series, Geist carried a 7-1 record with a 2.01 earned run average. He has struck out 73 batters while allowing only 15 walks in 45 1/3 innings. Opponents are batting .163 against him.
Instead of wanting to be the ace of the staff, Geist is comfortable with his role as one of several effective pitchers on the War Eagles’ team.
Blake Stevens is 3-1 in the postseason, with a one-hitter in a 9-0 win over Alcovy in the quarterfinals. He struck out seven and walked only one. Junior Brandon Liebrandt is 3-0 after a no-decision in a rocky start in the first round against South Paulding. He allowed five runs and 11 hits in five innings but earned a win in each of the next two rounds.
“I started rough and was 2-1 at the beginning of the season,” Geist said. “I wasn’t throwing well and was moved to the closer [position], where I pitched mostly the fifth, sixth or seventh inning. I started to throw more strikes coming out of the bullpen and got my confidence back.”
Geist has been a member of the varsity for two seasons and played in the field as a junior when he wasn’t pitching. But the left-hander has been strictly a pitcher this season.
That move has helped Geist work more on his repertoire of pitches and improve this season. His curve is his money pitch, but Geist also has an effective change-up and fastball.
His skills and improved outlook on the game helped him earn a scholarship and follow in the footsteps of his father. Pete Geist earned a baseball scholarship to Georgia Tech and was taken in the third round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers after his junior season.
There is a chance the younger Geist might get chosen in this summer’s MLB draft, but Evan Geist said he likely will go the route of his father – go to school and try to improve his chances in the draft.
“My parents want me to go to school,” Geist said. “If I go to school for two to three years, my draft status hopefully will go way up.”
But for now, Geist is happy to be helping his team try to win a state championship. He looks back at his stint in the bullpen as a lesson learned.
“I was kinda looking to be the guy for the team and wanted to do it all myself,” Geist said. “Once I realized I needed to be a great teammate and be there for them, then my performance would get back to the level I was accustomed to.”