By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa.—The wins haven’t come as often this season as they did the past two, but pitcher Austin Coley has been solid on the mound for the Altoona Curve.
As of July 19, Coley had a 3-2 record and 3.11 ERA in 15 starts and 20 overall appearances for the Curve. All three of his victories came on the road and his two losses were at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
In 92 2/3 innings, the 6-foot-3, 203-pound right hander had 69 strikeouts and 21 walks.
“He gives us a chance every time out,” Curve manager Michael Ryan said, “and that’s all you can ask.
“His numbers have been pretty good,” Ryan noted. “He prepares well and has the weapons to do what he wants.”
Coley, who lives in Murfreesboro, Tenn., led the Pirates organization in wins in both the 2015 and 2016 seasons. In 2015, he posted a 16-6 record and 3.66 ERA at Class A West Virginia. He followed that with a 12-10 mark and 4.65 ERA for advanced-A Bradenton.
“The 16 at West Virginia were the most in all of the minor leagues, I think,” Coley said. “I got one more in the playoffs … it was a crazy year.
“I’d like to say it was a lot of my performance,” he continued, “but a lot of it was our offense. We had a great offense and scored 10 to 15 runs a lot of games. I just tried to do my job and get us deep into the game.
“It was a lot of luck, but a fun year.”
Coley’s 12 wins in 2016 helped Bradenton win the Florida State League championship.
“Maybe I used up my wins those two years,” Coley quipped. “I pitched once in the championship series and it was the only game we lost.
“We had a great group of guys and everyone gelled,” he said. “We won the first half and kicked it in for the playoffs.
“It was a lot of fun to win. A lot of those guys are here and it’s good to have Mike (Ryan) here, too.”
Coley was drafted out of Belmont University by the Mets in the 27th round in 2013, but did not sign.
“I was eligible to be drafted after my sophomore year because of my age,” he said. “I broke my hand at the end of the season and honestly wasn’t expecting to be drafted, so I decided to go back to college for my junior year.”
The Pirates selected him in the eighth round in 2014 and he signed within a couple weeks. He went to (short season) Jamestown where he was 0-2 with a 5.33 ERA in eight starts.
After Jamestown, it was West Virginia, Bradenton and now Altoona.
“I’m not sure what happens from here,” Coley said. “The hitters and competition at this level is great. Baseball gets better as time goes on so I’m just focusing on getting better.
“I do the best I can to prepare for each start and then go on to the next.”
Coley is married and a man of great faith, too.
“After baseball, it could be the ministry or something that glorifies the lord,” he said. “It could be something in finance since I was a business major.”