The Southern Illinois Miners are proud to announce that left-handed ace and reigning Frontier League Pitcher of the Year Matt Bywater has been picked up by the Atlanta Braves. He becomes the 42nd former Miner to join a Major League Baseball organization and the fourth in 2015 after Cory Harrilchak, Jarett Miller and Adam Lopez.
A native of Thousand Oaks, California, Bywater joined the Miners after pitching one season for the Lincoln SaltDogs of the American Association and two years in the Baltimore Orioles organization, for whom he was a seventh round pick in 2010 out of Pepperdine University. He proceeded to dominate the Frontier League in 2014, going 8-4 with a 2.37 ERA and becoming the third Miners pitcher to win Pitcher of the Year honors. He pitched a league-high 129 1/3 innings, allowing only 86 hits and striking out 114 (the third time ever a Miners pitcher attained 100 strikeouts in a single season). He ranked third in the circuit in ERA and strikeouts, winning the year-end award despite leading the league with 60 walks.
He returned to the Miners this season and picked up right where he left off. After adding a slider to his unique and dominant “vulcan” changeup pitch, Bywater won his first six decisions in 2015, including an eight-inning performance at Normal on June 5th with a career-high 12 strikeouts. His next start would etch his name into history, as he shut down the Evansville Otters on June 12th, pitching the second no-hitter and first of nine innings in length in team history, adding 10 strikeouts for good measure. On the season, the left-hander departs with an 8-4 record and a 2.44 ERA, and league-best totals of 107 innings pitched and 123 strikeouts while walking only 32. He also goes to the Braves ranking second in team history in career strikeouts (237, behind only Ryan Bird’s 308), fourth in strikeouts per nine innings (9.0) fifth in innings pitched (236 1/3) and sixth in wins (16), while joining David Harden as the only two Miners ever with three career complete games.
“Matt has been the premier pitcher in this league for the last two seasons, so this was long deserved,” Miners manager Mike Pinto said. “He has worked long and hard for this opportunity and we are thrilled for him that this chance came up. The Braves have had a lot of success with Miners filling needed spots in their organization the last couple of years. His numbers speak for themselves with their dominance. I know I speak for the coaching staff and all our players in wishing Matt the best as he finishes up his season with the Braves organization.”