Record-setting closer Ryan Netemeyer has learned to love the pressure associated with his role.
Netemeyer, a senior at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a 2014 graduate of Mascoutah High School, is the Salukis' career leader in saves with 37 heading into a weekend series at rival Missouri State.
"I really never did anything like this in high school," Netemeyer said Wednesday. "My freshman year, I got a save at Indiana State. My sophomore year, they told me I was going to be the closer. I like that late-inning situation, that adrenaline rush of shutting the door on the opponent after your team has gone eight innings. It's finishing them off, basically."
Netemeyer, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound right-hander, shattered the learning curve in his first full season as the closer. He had 12 saves as a sophomore, which ranked second in the Missouri Valley Conference and second for a single season at SIUC.
Netemeyer topped it last season, recording 15 saves to lead the MVC and set a single-season Salukis record.
This season, Netemeyer has nine saves, although some shaky outings have bloated his ERA to a career-high 5.50 in 20 games.
"It's cool to think of everything I've done here, all the teams I've been involved with and all the different players. It's something I'm proud of," Netemeyer said. "I wish this year could have went a little better, but I'm starting to turn it around a little bit. Maybe going into this late (part of the) season, we can make something happen."
Netemeyer, the son of Dan and Julie Netemeyer, was 9-1 with a 1.29 ERA in 15 games, including 13 starts, as a senior at Mascoutah in 2014. He walked 25, struck out 92 and allowed just 45 hits in 70 2/3 innings.
Those years as a starter seem far in the past, even though Netemeyer has developed a four-pitch repertoire that could again lead him into that role in a possible professional career this summer.
Netemeyer relies on a low- to mid-90s fastball along with a slide. He mixes in an occasional curveball and also has employed a changeup that has become more prominent this season.
"It's stuff I've been working on throughout my career, and it's starting to help me out now," said Netemeyer, whose fastball has touched 94 mph. "If I had to start, I probably could. But I like closing. It's a good adrenaline rush."
Netemeyer's statistics have been damaged by disappointing performances against Louisiana Monroe (two runs in one inning), UC Irvine (three runs in 2/3 of an inning), Illinois State (two runs in 1/3 of an inning) and Dallas Baptist (three runs in 1/3 of an inning). He has six walks in those outings, four of which came against Dallas Baptist.
Since closers don't throw many innings, it can be difficult to overcome the rough spots.
"A couple of weird games happened," Netemeyer said. "And it was me pressing, trying to do too much. You've just got to settle in and relax a little bit — just have fun with the game again. It was more just me wanting to do well for the team, not letting them down."
The Salukis' regular season concludes May 19 with the finale of a three-game series against visiting Bradley. The Missouri Valley Conference Tournament is scheduled for May 23-26 in Dallas. SIUC is 25-23 overall and 8-7 in the league.
Unless they win the MVC Tournament, the Salukis will have their bags packed before the amateur draft is held June 6-8 in New Jersey. Netemeyer dreams of being selected by a major-league team, or perhaps sign a contract as an undrafted free agent.
Dan Netemeyer, a McKendree University graduate, pitched in the Kansas City Royals organization.
"It's something I've always wanted to do," Ryan Netemeyer said of pitching professionally. "It's out of my hands at this point. I can just do whatever I can on the field and hope that someone gives me a chance.
"There are a lot of opportunities out there. I like to think I have more left."
Regardless, Netemeyer will return to Carbondale for the fall semester to complete his major in mechanical engineering.
Netemeyer still has close ties to Mascoutah. He remains in contact with coach Don Eddy and "a ton of friends."
Carbondale is Netemeyer's adopted second home.
"It's the people here," he said. "It's a big school with small-town people — kind of like Mascoutah. It's a good place for me. There are good people here."