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Eric Peterson, Published July 04 2013

Offseason work pays off for RedHawks pitcher Laber

Fargo - Jake Laber committed to becoming a better pitcher this past offseason – baseball was his job.

“I chose not to work,” said Laber, a starter for Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. “That was the biggest thing.”

In the months preceding this American Association season, Laber did training with weighted balls and did speed and agility drills. In addition, he did more traditional weight training.

The payoff? Added velocity on his fastball.

“That has given me the confidence to attack hitters more and be more aggressive in the strike zone,” said Laber, who is scheduled to start at 7:05 tonight at Lincoln.

The RedHawks are set to return home at 7:02 p.m. Saturday, starting a four-game series against the Sioux City Explorers.

F-M is in first place in the North Division. Laber has played a role in that team success.

Heading into tonight’s start against the Saltdogs, Laber has a 4-3 record with a 3.01 ERA. The former Fargo North and North Dakota State standout is returning to his 2011 form with F-M after a disappointing 2012. Laber posted a 5.02 ERA last summer.

“He dedicated himself,” RedHawks manager Doug Simunic said. “He has better velocity than last year. He has a lot more up-tempo to his game.”

Laber, on average, has added three-to-four mph to his fastball, which has topped out at around 92 this season.

“Last year, he wasn’t happy with the way things went,” RedHawks center fielder Nic Jackson said. “He worked really hard in his offseason workouts. He’s a pretty prepared guy.”

Laber has been most effective at home. In his five starts at Newman Outdoor Field this season, Laber has a 4-1 record with a 1.21 ERA. Opponents have a .217 batting average vs. Laber at Newman. In his four road starts, Laber has a 0-2 record with a 5.25 ERA. He’s allowing a .340 batting average to opposing batters away from Newman.

“I’ve had a little better luck at home. I’ve pitched better overall, too,” Laber said. “It’s nothing that I think about when I’m out there. It’s still about executing the pitch I’m about to throw.”

Laber said he did weighted ball training two times a week as part of his offseason program. He did speed and agility training two times a week. He lifted weights four times a week.

“I’ve always worked out a lot, but I feel like it’s been more focused and doing the right things to help me perform on the mound,” Laber said. “I was pretty much doing something every day.”

Laber said with his weighted ball training, he threw a ball as heavy as two pounds and one as light as four ounces and other weights in between.

A baseball weighs around five ounces.

“As I was going through this program I could feel it already that the ball was coming out of my hand better,” Laber said. “I didn’t have to force it to get velocity that I was looking for.”

While Laber has a quiet demeanor off the field, he has the right makeup when on the mound, Jackson said.

“He kind of flips the switch,” Jackson said. “He becomes a real competitor. He is a real intense guy once he takes the mound.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com