The past two years of college baseball for Koty Frank have been a lot like his signature pitch. Unusual, with a lot of action and an unpredictable late break.
The right-hander signed with Nebraska last week to realize a dream of playing major Division I baseball after a recruiting process that spanned less than a month. He’ll be on campus this fall and is likely to contribute right away.
None of it seemed plausible a year ago.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Frank arrived at Eastern Oklahoma State Community College in Tushka, Oklahoma — a town of about 300 people in the south-central part of the state — with one other junior college offer. The new coaching staff barely knew him, with a tryout earning Frank an invitation to walk on. He had no designated position, labeled a utilityman who could play anywhere in the infield, catch and pitch.
As luck would have it, the Mountaineers were thin on the mound.
In February 2019, Frank, known as a guy with a goofy pitch who threw strikes, threw in a midweek game in northeast Texas. That perception changed quickly — he struck out eight in a three-hit shutout.
“That kind of sealed the deal for my pitching career,” Frank said.
Frank was good as a freshman, working a 3.62 ERA and averaging a strikeout per inning across 79⅔ innings. But attention from bigger schools didn’t come until this spring.
With an uptick in velocity — his fastball sits around 85 to 87 mph and touches 90 after he was around 83 to 84 as a freshman — all his offerings took on added bite. He had 48 strikeouts and eight walks in 31 innings before the season ended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nebraska discovered video highlights on Twitter and last month made an offer, which Frank accepted in early April. He also had offers from New Mexico State and Jacksonville University. He has yet to visit Lincoln in person, but the Nebraska coaches and virtual tour quickly sold him.
Frank’s path may have gone differently had the entire 2020 season played out. He struck out 11, 16, 10 and eight in his first four starts. Scouts and coaches coming to watch another of East Oklahoma State’s touted pitchers, Christian McGowan, were asking questions.
“A lot of teams started coming after him hard,” East Oklahoma State pitching coach Justin Oney said. “I would imagine if we were still playing baseball right now and he was uncommitted, he would be pitching in front of 20 to 40 guys every single outing.”
Frank possesses a full arsenal. Fastballs, two- and four-seam. A slider and a change-up. Then there’s his out pitch, a so-called slider-change, that is unlike anything Oney had seen before.
Oney recalled his first bullpen session with Frank before the pitch began appearing in video highlights on social media. He asked for the change-up, and Frank threw a ball that broke away from a right-handed hitter instead of fading inside.
No, the change-up, Oney repeated. Again came a pitch that took the path of a cutter.
“You might fall out of your chair,” Oney said. “It’s a different animal.”
Oney said opposing hitters had a swing-and-miss percentage of around 65 against the slider-change in the shortened season. Rapsodo data, which measures ball spin and flights of pitched balls, illustrates that his release points on his two-seamer, slider and change-up form a triangle. The slider-change comes out right in the middle of that triangle, leaving batters to guess what’s on the way.
“I just kind of throw it and it does its own thing,” Frank said. “It kind of has a mind of its own.”
Frank said he holds the pitch like a circle change but grips it tighter and with some different wrist action. Now that he’s throwing harder, it breaks sharper and later. He can command the upper-70s bender for a strike or get hitters to chase in the dirt.
Frank preserves this season of eligibility and will be a sophomore when he arrives at Nebraska as part of a 13-player 2020 class. In a release, NU recruiting coordinator Lance Harvell called him “a valuable commodity for us on our pitching staff moving forward.”
The Huskers could return their entire weekend starting rotation if senior Gareth Stroh decides to come back. Frank said he’s willing to be a starter, closer or anything in between.
Getting a chance with a major program and finding his baseball identity is already more than he could have hoped for.
“The movement is elite, that’s what separates him,” Oney said. “Once he was able to take that next little jump in velocity, he became a different pitcher. I would imagine between now and when he shows up at Nebraska, he’s going to put in a lot of hard work.”
The past 10 years of Nebraska baseball
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