CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Garrett Acton hasn’t started in a single game for the Illini but whenever he does take the field, it’s followed by a round of applause.
“When we get on the field, I’m hyper-competitive and I really love pitching off adrenaline,” Acton said. “That’s who I am, I get very amped up for these games and I think when the pressure is on that’s when I’m at my best. so that’s why I think the role is for me.”
In his first season with the Illini, the transfer from Parkland College has already etched his name in the record books. The Lemont native is well on his way to surpassing the all-time record for 14 saves in a season, just one shy of Joey Gerber and Tyler Jay’s mark. Jay was picked 6th overall in 2015, Gerber was drafted in the 8th round of the 2018 MLB draft.
“To try and replace a guy like Joey Gerber, you can’t really just have somebody step in and do it,” Acton said. “But I’ve been happy to sufficently fill his shoes as best as I can.”
“The last three outs of the game are often the most difficult and probably the time where there’s the most pressure,” Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said. “But he’s done an outstanding job all year, he’s very composed, very intelligent.”
Acton was a a starting pitcher in high school, drafted in the 35th round of the 2016 draft. But after a year at St. Louis University, he’s found more success in his new role as a closer, and is right on track to become one of the best in prorgram history. He’s only 12 saves away from breaking the all-time career record.
“When it all comes down to it, that’s not whats important to me,” said Acton. “What matters is getting wins for this team which is far more important than getting saves.”
In just a few months, Acton has manged to achieve what some have taken an entire career to do. It speaks to what he’ll be able to acheive during his remaining year of eligibiliy, or at the next level.