He was a familiar sight on the mound for the Riverton Raiders just two seasons ago, but anyone who watched Aquilo Friday deliver his traditional, left-handed fastball back then would be surprised at his style today.
The sophomore hurler at Lamar Community College in Lamar, Colorado has made a substantial change in his delivery.
“It’s going pretty well, my arm has changed a lot, “ Friday said. “This past couple of years, I figured I’d change because my arm was hurting. I dropped my arm to more of a side-arm motion. It rises and then drops on my fastball, it’s pretty cool I like it. I just pitch for outs.
Friday played first base for the Raiders when he wasn’t on the mound, but in Colorado, he’s strictly a pitcher.
“I feel like I could have played first, but my hitting would be lacking,” Friday said. “The guys in this league can really hit the ball. “
His average speed on a fastball is a little lower now at 77 mph, but the pain is gone, and he has better control.
“My pitches are the fastball and a slider, but at a different release point,” Friday said. “For my slider to go, I whip it up.”
His motion is a sidearm throw now, much like an outfielder would make on a one-hop ground ball with a flipping motion upward at the wrist as his arm comes forward on the delivery.
He will earn an associate degree this spring, then move on to a four-year school to major in environmental science.
“We’ll see how the end of the season goes, if baseball is still an option I’ll play baseball, otherwise I’ll go to Wyoming,” he said.
His transfer shouldn’t be a problem as he carries a 3.55 grade point average.
Playing baseball in the Rockies and Great Plains presents a challenge that players in warmer climates don’t face. Teams in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, and the Dakotas don’t get to play as long as teams in the South, and they don’t get outside nearly as early.
The disparity in climate is just one of the challenges for a player competing in Wyoming Class A Legion baseball then moving directly to the JUCO ranks.
“It was a big transition, it is definably more time-consuming,” Friday said. “You can see the difference in athletes from Texas and Arizona, they just play so much more than we do. When we started our season, we didn’t get to practice outside.”
Lamar opened the season in Arizona and Texas against tough competition beginning in early February.
“We went to Arizona for our first games against the top schools, they all had sunlight and good weather,” Friday said. “As least the weather here is better than home.”
As a Riverton Wolverine, Friday ran cross country and track and was an all-conference basketball player in addition to baseball.
His ERA (earned run average) is 4.66, the lowest on the team in six appearances on the mound.
“Everyone can hit in this league,” Friday said. “But sometimes it’s too late.”
In a division that uses a designated hitter, pitchers rarely if ever get a chance to bat.
“No pitcher really sees the plate, “Friday said. “I miss hitting those bloop singles into right field.”
Friday is the son of Brenda and Pat Hubbard of Riverton.
As a red-shirt freshman, he has options to continue playing baseball for the next three seasons if the opportunity arises.
“It’s been a good experience, I love it,” Friday said. “I’m doing it for the hometown, showing the youth that it can be done.”