The awards poured in four years ago — nine wins for Truman State University baseball’s single season record, two GLVC Player of the Week honors, First Team All-Conference and GLVC Freshman of the Year. At the time, freshman pitcher Kent Frantz was on the radar as one of the best rookie arms in the region.
Fast forward to his final season in the Purple and White and Frantz finishes the way he started, becoming Truman’s all-time leader in pitching wins last Saturday. The 3-2 Bulldog victory at Maryville University notched Frantz’s 17th career victory, surpassing alumnus Alex Hoffman, who pitched from 2014-2017.
“It is a testament to the hard work not only by myself but by my teammates and coaches over the last five years,” Frantz said. “I couldn’t have gotten any of those wins without the other eight guys on the field and many more in the dugout.”
Though 17 wins is nothing to overlook, the road to this milestone was slow rolling — nine wins in his first year, and eight wins in the following two and a half years. As hot as Frantz started, head coach Dan Davis said his rookie also quickly learned what it was like to cool down.
Davis said in addition to good individual outings in his first season, Frantz was part of a great team. Davis said Frantz limited walks and made people play the ball on his terms and while the veteran team behind him made limited mistakes on defense. Davis said he expected Frantz to easily break the win record earlier in his career, but sports are unpredictable and oftentimes don’t play out the way players or coaches envision.
“He gave us good effort every time out, so we can’t ask for much else,” Davis said.
As a sophomore, Frantz added just two wins to his resume, with a 2-6 record and 6.12 ERA. As a junior, Frantz switched roles. In 2017, he appeared in 18 games but started only four on the mound.
Davis said Frantz did a great job understanding the switch to the bullpen and preparing himself to come into any new situation.
“If you go back and look at his numbers, he really took off and really did a great job,” Davis said. “I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but he was lights out, and he gave us a chance to win. I think he did a great job of accepting that role and doing the best he could.”
Heading into his final season, Frantz sat at 14 career wins — third on the All-Time list — but securing the record was questionable after the previous two seasons.
In addition to overcoming doubts and dry spells as a Bulldog, Frantz also overcame an injury before finding the mound in Bulldog Baseball Park. Coming out of his senior year of high school, Frantz said he had Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm. If anything, Frantz said the obstacle only reinforced his desire to be on the mound.
“You do what the doctors and trainers tell you to do and do it to the best of your ability,” Frantz said. “Getting my arm action and mechanics back was just re-establishing my muscle memory, and I had a great training and coaching staff that allowed me to do that. The hardest part is the waiting to get back on the field, and I am glad that part is over.”
After grabbing wins against Washburn University and William Jewell College earlier this season, Frantz secured a portion of the record with plenty of the season left to make it his own. The 3-2 victory against Maryville secured his name atop the list and bumped his season record to 3-4, winning two of his last three outings.
After giving up an early run in the first inning, Frantz allowed just one more run in his seven innings of work. Three Saints errors and an RBI by Bulldog redshirt freshman Jack Goodwin on third base would give Frantz the run support he needed through seven innings, while senior pitchers Matt Tometz and Peter Young closed out the final two innings to cap off Frantz’s record-breaking day.
“It has definitely been a struggle,” Frantz said. “It’s not easy being so successful at first and then falling off the radar. I found a nice groove in the bullpen last year and really enjoyed my new role. Just building on the confidence I gained last year and the hard work of my teammates to solidify the bullpen allowed me to be able to get back on the bump this year as a starter.”
Frantz is also etched in the top 10 of Truman record books in games started, innings pitched, complete games and strikeouts.
Behind Frantz’s three wins this season, the Bulldogs are just 8-24 so far in 2018 and have taken a 2-10 start to GLVC play. 16 games remain on the schedule for the remainder of the season and Davis said he hopes the team can get into a groove and allow seniors like Frantz to step away from the game with even more success.
“You have good years, you have bad years,” Davis said. “You never know how that’s gonna go. You put all that time and effort in, and you expect good things to happen, but it just doesn’t always work that way. Other people are putting in work, too, and that’s why we play the game.”