April 8, 2013
By Scott Gierman
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Upon first glance, Cody Forsythe may not look like one of the most dominant college pitchers in the Midwest. Listed at 6-foot tall, the skinny southpaw with a scraggly red beard isn't the biggest, strongest or hardest thrower on the Salukis' roster, but there's one thing that sets him apart.
"He's not physically intimidating," SIU Coach Ken Henderson said of the senior pitcher. "But his makeup, his heart and competitiveness are off the charts. He shows up every day to kick your butt. That's his mentality. He has great command and knows how to pitch, but the difference is his competitiveness."
Anyone who has been able to watch Forsythe pitch a few times starts to realize why he's so good. His ability to consistently throw strikes is remarkable. In more than 50 innings of work this season, he has issued only nine walks. During his sophomore campaign, he issued just 11 free passes in 103 innings.
"It all comes down to spotting up every single pitch, not missing any spots and trying to stay consistent throughout the game," Forsythe said.
For the last three years, he has been the definition of consistent. When pitching on normal rest, the senior has lasted at least five full innings in 35-consecutive starts. That's more starts than all but a couple active Missouri Valley Conference pitchers have made in their entire careers.
On the topic of career numbers, Forsythe is rewriting SIU's record book. By the time he finishes his career at the end of this season, he will most likely be the school's all-time leader in games started and innings pitched. Roughly halfway through the season, he has thrown just over 50 innings, putting him on pace to be the first Saluki pitcher to throw 100 innings in three-consecutive years. Last year he became the only pitcher in school history to do it twice in a career. He is also within striking distance of the top five for career strikeouts, which is pretty impressive for a pitcher who scouts wouldn't rush to label a strikeout pitcher.
"I think I start to hit my stride once we get farther along in the season," Forsythe said of his success in the conference schedule. "I start to get more in my rhythm, and my routine gets locked in. I don't try to do anything different. I just get more locked in for those games. I put extra pressure on those games because I want to win those games more than anything."
When the coaching staff decided to move talented sophomore Sam Coonrod into the coveted Friday spot of the rotation to start the season, Forsythe moved to Saturdays but had no complaints.
"He didn't care," Pitching Coach P.J. Finigan said. "He'd definitely love to pitch on Fridays, but he just wants the ball, and he just wants to do what's best for this team. That's what we thought was best for the team, so he's all for it. He's been a model teammate and a model player throughout his entire time here."
Forsythe might not have had any time in Carbondale if the late Saluki coach Dan Callahan hadn't happened to notice Forsythe's stats four years ago while scouting another player in Kentucky. Henderson, an assistant SIU coach at the time, went with Callahan to look at a position player.
"Coach Cal noticed there was this left-hander who wasn't pitching that day but had phenomenal numbers," Henderson said.
The numbers were impressive enough that Callahan drove back down to Kentucky along with then pitching coach Tim Dixon to see Forsythe pitch. It proved to be worth the trip as Forsythe continues to pay dividends for the program.
What about the player the coaches initially went to see play that day?
"I don't even remember who it was," Henderson said with a smile. "We only have one guy from Kentucky on the team, so evidently we didn't like him."
Finigan took over as pitching coach prior to Forsythe's sophomore year and said he credits Forsythe's work ethic and maturity for allowing him to blossom into a first-team All-Conference pitcher.
Finigan is not looking forward to trying to replace Forsythe next season, but for now, he and Saluki fans still have time to enjoy watching him pitch.
"A lot of coaches say they worry about life after somebody," Finigan said. "For me, it's going to be life after Cody. That's probably going to be a tough one when he graduates."