“Big Red” Is Providing Big Performances On The Mound For The Pioneers

Jared Darling, Sports Photographer

Starting Pitcher Gabe Tanner Is Shaping Up To Be The Newest Ace In The Pioneer Rotation

East Bay starting pitcher Gabe Tanner has come out of the gates firing on all cylinders for the Pioneers.

The transfer from Chabot College currently leads the California Collegiate Athletic Association in innings pitched, batters struck out, and is tied in second for wins, cementing himself as an essential asset to a starting rotation composed of promising young pitchers along with seasoned veterans for East Bay.

When asked about his decision to commit to East Bay after his tenure at Chabot College, Tanner stated that he was “rooted in Hayward” due to his family lineage. Looking to continue his family’s legacy in Hayward, Tanner inked his commitment to the Pioneers, and got to work making the jump from the junior college level to the Division II level.

In preparation for the heightened level of play, Tanner joined the Walnut Creek Crawdads in the summer of 2022 to compete against California’s premier players. Competing with and against players from all collegiate levels was an incredible learning experience for Tanner, highlighting that “I was playing with high-intensity teammates from the Division I level from top teams like Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas Tech. I learned a lot from their will to win and just about lifting techniques from pitchers that are at the Division I level and how to make that jump.”

Tanner expressed how his mindset wasn’t completely focused on the jump, but more on advancing his game: “I thought, ‘I’m just leveling up’, and I have to level up my game as I go from high school to junior college and now to Division II,” commented Tanner.

Level up Tanner did, as the emerging ace earned the CCAA “Pitcher of the Week” award for the week of Feb. 6 – 12, following his stellar performances against the Central Washington University Wildcats and against the Menlo College Oaks to start the season. The right-hander started the first game of the season for the Pioneers with an impressive outing against Menlo, giving up no runs, allowing only one hit, and striking out seven in his five innings of work.

Tanner followed up his opening day start with a gem against Central Washington, pitching the second game of the team’s doubleheader: traditionally only a seven-inning contest compared to a standard nine-inning game. The East Bay pitcher stifled the Wildcats by inducing weak ground balls and flyouts with his sinker and fastball, while racking up the strikeouts with his slurve and changeup. Finishing what he started against Central Washington, Tanner completed all seven innings and added nine more strikeouts to his season total.

Leading the league with 36 strikeouts — 13 of which the batters were frozen on a called third strike — the key to Tanner’s success on the mound lies in his deceptive pitches and his knack for collecting strikeouts, whether by the swinging or looking variety. Tanner credits pitching coach Zach Wallace for being especially impactful on his success. Wallace’s ability to sequence pitches throughout the course of an at-bat to set up the strikeout has helped Tanner reduce his thinking on the mound, and allows him to just focus on executing his pitches to the best of his ability.

Tanner pointed out that he can throw any pitch in any situation, but enjoys throwing his incredibly deceptive “barrel missing” sinker early in at-bats to get ahead of hitters. Once the hitter has two strikes on them, Tanner is free to use any pitch in his arsenal to finish off the hitter. Tanner admits the sweeping slurve to be his favorite strikeout pitch, which is a lethal pitch with characteristics of both a traditional slider and curveball. This pitch, coupled with an increased spin rate, has been a deadly combination for opposing hitters, relying on Tanner’s mastery over his element to throw it anywhere.

“I’m looking to throw that [slurve] either at someone and have it break back into the zone or start the pitch in the zone and have the pitch drop into the dirt,” revealed Tanner.

In the first scenario, the batter is frozen by the knee-buckling pitch in the zone and strikes out looking, in the latter, the batter flails at a pitch in the dirt. However, both scenarios have the same outcome: a defeated walk back to the dugout.

Aside from the strikeouts, Tanner has been a workhorse for the Pioneer pitching staff early in the season. Leading the Pioneers and the CCAA with 26 total innings pitched, Tanner prides himself on being able to work deep into games. At the outset of the season, Tanner has found his name penciled in as the starter for CCAA doubleheader seven-inning games, going in with the mentality that he will start and close the game, giving the bullpen a game off. Tanner expressed his mentality by sharing, “I’m thinking I’m going all seven [innings] and I don’t need anybody behind me. When I start these games, I feel very good going throughout the innings and making them quick innings for me to go the full game and not rely on the bullpen.” Following up on his promise, Tanner has accomplished a complete seven-inning game a league-leading two times so far this season: once versus Central Washington and the other against CCAA opponent San Francisco State.

The only blips on Tanner’s resume so far are two rough outings against heavy-hitting opponents Academy of the Arts University and the number 21 ranked nationally California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. In each event, walks and the long ball have come back to haunt Tanner. Using both of these performances as learning opportunities, Tanner is prepared to put them past him and attack the rest of the season. A major step in attacking the rest of the season involves reducing his free passes, recognizing the need to find each umpire’s strike zone early in the game and adjust his game plan accordingly.

With CCAA competition officially underway and an early taste of success at this level motivating Tanner, he is still hungry for more. Tanner recognized that the key to success the rest of the season is to continue perfecting his arsenal and pinpointing his command, making every pitch even more of a weapon to use in any count against his opponents.

Tanner expressed gratitude to his teammates and coaches for helping him achieve his success this far, “I owe a lot to those guys, I know that each time I go out the defense is going to step up and make plays for me and the ability to learn from a talented pitching staff has elevated my game significantly. I look forward to working with them every day!”

With Tanner slated to toe the rubber every Saturday for the Pioneers, his reputation and league-leading statistics are set to put the CCAA on notice. As the season and competition heat up, Tanner is poised for this extra attention, greater intensity, and playing a pivotal role in propelling an East Bay return to the CCAA playoffs come to the end of the season.