June 15, 2009
Two weeks ago at the Sedalia Bombers home opener, a collective gasp
could be heard within an earshot of the Ozark Generals dugout as the
home-team’s lineup was announced.
The rumblings, however, were more pronounced as the starting pitcher came over the PA system of Liberty Park Stadium.
Zach Hardoin, the southpaw on the mound that night, was declared a
Missouri Tiger, and the response from the Generals’ dugout was a
dejected groan, followed up by a player saying, “We have to face a D-1
The player was half-right, though, as the former Blinn College
standout has yet to throw a pitch in the Big 12 or among the D-1 ranks.
The 5-9 southpaw has been in Brenham, Texas for the past two years
playing junior college ball, perfecting his repertoire of pitches and
proving to be a man amongst boys in the process.
Hardoin’s big-breaking curveball, 88 mph fastball and deceptive
changeup deserved to be displayed on a bigger arena, possibly a more
celebrated athletic venue that would appreciate greatness.
His dreams would come to fruition after a memorable sophomore year,
a season that left no concern about his focus and talents on the mound.
In the wake of collecting a 10-1 record, a 3.04 ERA, a 4:1
strikeout-to-walk ratio and a Junior College All-star selection as a
sophomore this past spring, the hurler was no longer flying under the
His undersized frame was not an issue, like in high school, and the list of suitors quickly grew.
Baylor University, the University of Houston, Texas A&M
University and the University of Missouri were all interested in
Hardoin, but after a visit to Columbia, the decision was clear-cut for
“It’s a tier-1 university and along with the stadium, the athletic
facilities were cutting edge in my opinion,” Hardoin said. “The coaches
and players were extremely hospitable, and Columbia is one of those
towns that has a small-town feel that I knew would suit me well.”
Apparently the feelings were mutual because shortly after the visit,
the Tigers offered Hardoin an athletic scholarship to play for their
Mizzou didn’t lure him in with a guaranteed spot in the
rotation and couldn’t promise what role he’d play in the bullpen, but
just like his humble beginnings, Hardoin recognized that he’d once
again have to prove himself.
In preparing for the Big 12, Hardoin knew he would have to remain in game shape, and summer ball was the next logical step.
on the M.I.N.K. (Missori, Iowa, Nebraska, Kanas) League’s reputation
and wealth of collegiate talent, the Bombers provided the right venue
for Hardoin to excel further.
Just eight games into the season with the Bombers sitting at 6-2 and
atop the standings, Hardoin’s shown he’s ready for the Big 12.
Despite a 0-1 record through two starts, the left-handed hurler’s
overcome arm troubles and has allowed only two runs in 10 innings,
highlighted by a no-hit bid in the home opener that was overshadowed
by Bubby Williams’ walk-off blast.
“From top to bottom, the lineups in this league are a step up from
what I’ve faced, If you made a mistake pitch in (junior college), you
could get away with it,” Hardoin said. “But here, it seems like there’s
four to five cleanup hitters waiting for you.
“It’s definitely been a good learning experience so far, and with my
arm not feeling great, I’ve managed to put out some good performances
and pitch well against some great competition.”
The solid outings have yet to produce a win, but Hardoin’s velocity
and early mastery of the strike zone are good indicators of his
progression. The heavy workload is creating some strain on his left arm
that may limit his pitch count in the near future, but the mild
discomfort has yet to strongly affect his prowess on the mound.
For fans looking to catch a glimpse of the future Tiger, Hardoin’s
stuff will be on display along with the Bomber’s prolific offense
Wednesday against Joplin, whom the Bombers are 3-1 against this season.
The Bombers will aim to improve on their 6-2 record, which leads the M.I.N.K. league, and improve on their 4-0 record at home.