As the No. 1 starter for the Michigan State University baseball team, A.J. Achter can't afford to have a long memory.
The 6-5, 215-pound junior right-hander and former three-sport star at Clay High School had a rough outing on April 30 at Penn State. Achter pitched the opening game of a three-game series against the Nittany Lions and went five innings while getting a no-decision in the Spartans' 18-7 loss.
Achter gave up five runs (four earned) on nine hits and four walks, with eight strikeouts. He threw 106 pitches as the Spartans and Nittany Lions combined for 41 hits. PSU swept the next two games, dropping the Spartans (28-13) into a sixth-place tie in the Big Ten with Penn State and Indiana.
“Obviously I was in the zone a little bit with eight strikeouts,” said Achter, 21. “I missed my spots on some pitches, and they are a hot team and they made us pay for it all weekend. You just chalk it up as one of those days you're going to have as a starter and move on from there.”
As he spoke, Achter was finishing up final exams for the spring. The secondary education major – his father, Rod, is the dean of students at Northview High School and his uncle, Roger, is a teacher at Clay – is carrying a 3.3 GPA. He's also fared well on the baseball diamond this season.
Heading into a three-game series May 8-10 at Purdue, Achter is 4-2 with a 3.52 ERA in 76.2 innings. He has made 11 starts, with one complete game, and has allowed 75 hits and 30 walks, with 64 strikeouts. Opponents are batting .259 against him.
Achter's fastball has been clocked at 94 miles an hour, and he also throws a change-up and curveball.
“The curveball is a work in progress right now,” he said. “My change-up is my out pitch. My last four or five starts haven't been that great. I'm trying to build on the good ones for the rest of the season.”
As a sophomore, Achter had a 3-6 record and a 3.76 ERA and tied for the team lead with 14 starts. His 57 strikeouts tied for second most on the team, while his 81.1 innings pitched were also the second most on the team.
As a freshman, Achter made eight starts with three appearances in relief. He went 1-3 in 33.2 innings and opponents hit just .224 against him. Achter also was the only Ohio native on the MSU roster, but the Spartans have since added two more players from Ohio.
“I kind of got teased my freshman year, since I was the only Ohio kid,” Achter said. “We've got a few more now. Living in Toledo, which is close to the Michigan border, I actually live closer to the school than some of my teammates do, so it's not that bad.”
Achter said he's received a ton of support from his family including his grandparents, his mother, Cindy, his brother, Austin, and his sister, Amanda.
“My family has been to every one of my Big Ten starts and every start I've had up here (East Lansing) so far,” he said. “They missed one or two starts when we played down South, but they travel pretty much everywhere we go. I've been pretty lucky with the support I get from my family. It makes it easy to be away.”
Achter said he keeps in close contact with Austin, a junior catcher/outfielder at Clay who is getting looks from several colleges.
“I talk to him daily,” A.J. said. “He's trying to play Division I baseball and I'm keeping up with him, making sure he's keeping up with it. He's having a pretty good year. He came to a camp up here in the fall, and I know there have been a lot of other schools out to see him. I would love for Austin to get a chance to play here.”
Achter said it was a “big-time adjustment” going from high school to facing Big Ten hitters.
“I got thrown into the mix right away,” he said. “I earned a starting job my first year and there was a big learning curve. How I have progressed from year to year has been astonishing. I have matured as a person and as a player, and I feel it's shown on the baseball field. I feel like I have shown the leadership to be the No. 1 starter.”
One thing Achter said he will never regret is choosing to play ball at MSU.
“I love it up here,” he said. “I wouldn't trade the past three years for anything.”