Q&A With Clayton Hamilton
May 6, 2004
Penn State senior Clayton Hamilton was named the Big Ten Co-Pitcher of the Week on May 3rd, after completing a nine inning, three hit shutout against Illinois on May 2nd. The righthander struck out five Illini batters and walked just one in his first career shutout. Hamilton's efforts earned him a second straight play of the weekend accolade for the Nittany Lion pitching staff, as teammate Aaron Tressler was honored on April 26th. Hamilton, who recently graduated from Penn State, has helped to lead the Lions to a first place tie atop the Big Ten standings. Here is how Clayton answered some of our questions about his complete game and his future plans for baseball.
In your game against Illinois last weekend, what was going through your mind when you were nearing the end of the game and you had a shutout going?
We knew we needed to win that game, especially after winning the first three. My mind focused on just winning the game for the team and I wasn't real concerned with finishing it. But, the complete game does cross your mind and it does a lot to boost a pitcher's confidence, it feels good. I went out there and focused on each batter until the end of the game.
Going into the seventh inning, Penn State had a 1-0 lead before scoring two runs in the top of the inning. Is it more difficult to pitch a shutout when there's just a one run lead and you're forced to concentrate every batter, or when you're up by three and the intensity of the game isn't the same?
It's definitely harder to pitch at 1-0. When we got those two runs across the plate, it was like a weight lifted off of my shoulders. When the score is 1-0, your mistakes are magnified. Last weekend, it was a very windy day and one mistake or one pop-fly could have ended up as a home run, so getting two runs across is big. Once we were up by a couple of runs, I was able to be more aggressive and attack the hitters.
Was there one pitch that seemed to be working really well for you that day?
All three seemed to be working well, but I think it was the change that got me through the day. I was going with that pitch early in the count to keep the hitters off balance, and then going to the fastball late in the count.
The Penn State sweep over Illinois was the first Big Ten sweep for the team since 2001. How good was the feeling on the rid home, and what do wins like that do for a team?
Illinois is a quality team, I think they were struggling a little bit last weekend, but they are a good team, so to beat them at home is quite an accomplishment. And, considering our travel, the sweep felt really good. We had to bus to Chicago, fly from Chicago to Pittsburgh, and then take a three hour bus ride to State College. We got home at about 3 a.m., and some guys had finals at eight that morning, but the sweep eases the ride home a lot. If we had split the series or something, the ride home would have been pretty tough.
Penn State is tied for the Conference lead. What does the team need to do to close out the season and win the Big Ten this year?
We need to keep doing what we're doing. This weekend our bats came alive, which is something we needed. We knew going into the season that our pitching was going to be something that carried us. Now, we just need to approach each game as it is- one game. We can't be looking ahead in the schedule or always checking the standings. Right now we're focused on Michigan this weekend and it's going to be a big weekend.
Who is the toughest hitter you have ever had to face?
Toughest hitter I've ever faced in the Big Ten is Bob Malek from Michigan State, I think two years ago. I think he ended up being drafted in the third round. Right now, though, I would say Sam Steidl from Minnesota. Some of it is probably the righty-lefty combination. I'm not sure how I've done against him this year, but he somehow hits everything hard and puts the ball in play. He's a real tough out.
Last year you were drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the amateur draft. As a Penn State player and a Pennsylvania native, how did that feel?
I'm actually from Pittsburgh, so it felt really good. I was disappointed that things didn't work out with them last year, but at the same time I was happy to come back to Penn State and finish my education. I was excited though, and my family was really happy. I even used to go to Pirates games when I was little. Even if it didn't work out last year, getting drafted is great and it's not something that happens to everyone. I'm going to go back into the draft, and from what I've heard, they're going to try and draft me again.
What are your plans for baseball after graduation?
I'm definitely going to play baseball. I'm not sure where, or who's going to take me, but all of my efforts are going to go towards playing ball. From there, we'll just see what happens.