Junior relief pitcher Trey Ziegenbein has appeared out of the MSU bullpen in 21 out of 32 games since joining the team before the 2019 season.
He is now a familiar face, but he’s been through a lot to get to this point.
On March 29, 2016 Ziegenbein tore his ulnar collateral ligament, requiring Tommy John surgery. At the time, he was a junior at Blue Springs High School in Kansas City and was committed to the University of Arkansas.
“It seemed pretty unique because I didn’t really see that many people, at that time, having the surgery at such a young age,” Ziegenbein said. “It was a decent time to get it because high school baseball is what it is, and you’re playing to get to this point.”
Exactly a year later, his rehab was complete, and he was preparing to pitch his final high school season.
Then it happened again. Another UCL tear ended his high school career. But this injury cost more than a year of playing time.
On July 3, 2017, Arkansas decided to pull Ziegenbein’s baseball scholarship just months prior to the start of his first school year.
This led him to a recruitment process during which he was not getting much attention, right before he was supposed to start college.
“It was between Johnson County Community College (JCCC) and Jefferson College,” Ziegenbein said. “I thought staying close to home and staying close to my rehab facility was going to be the best for me.”
This made the decision pretty easy for Ziegenbein, and he ended up joining the JCCC baseball team. The opportunity turned everything around for Ziegenbein and provided the support system he needed as he rehabbed through his first year of college.
After completing rehab, Ziegenbein saw immediate success at JCCC. In his one season as a Cavalier starting pitcher, he recorded a school-record 109 strikeouts and earned All-KJCCC and NJCAA All-Region VI recognitions. This was more than enough to catch the attention of Guttin and the rest of the MSU coaching staff.
“I didn’t really expect the whole Missouri State thing because I had originally decided to go back to Johnson County (Community College) for a third year,” Ziegenbein said. “But then Missouri State came in late. Obviously when you grow up in the Kansas City area, you think of Missouri State baseball and you don’t really think of anybody else in the state. It worked out pretty well.”
This led Ziegenbein to commit to Missouri State on Aug. 8, 2019. Being a late addition to the roster, he was dealt a new hurdle of transitioning to the bullpen and fitting in with his new teammates.
“The challenge of becoming a bullpen guy versus a starter was fun because it’s a physical challenge and a mental challenge to get your body ready,” Ziegenbein said. “It’s a unique challenge, but it’s a fun one.”
Ziegenbein’s hard work to get himself ready for this role made a great impression on his new teammates.
“Immediately, you could just tell that he was a huge competitor and was here to win,” graduate senior pitcher Logan Wiley said. “He has been a great teammate all around and hard-working to keep everybody motivated.”
Ziegenbein has appeared in ten games so far this season and holds a 2-0 record on the mound. He has five scoreless outings in a row, headlined by three shutout innings on the road against No. 18 Oklahoma State with five strikeouts. He has struck out 11 batters over the 6.1 inning scoreless streak.
Ziegenbein’s dedication to the team allowed him to quickly become one of the leaders of this MSU team, more so by example than vocally.
“Leaders come in all shapes and sizes,” Guttin said. “When a guy goes out and performs consistently and works hard, he gains respect and that makes him a leader.”
Follow Trevor Hahn on Twitter, @TrevHahn3
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