A baseball pitching staff is unique in many ways. With different personalities and styles of pitching, the quest to find who’s successful in certain situations can be a journey. But when a team finds what clicks for their club, having a successful pitching staff becomes quite the luxury.
Colorado Mesa University’s baseball team boasts an impressive returning pitching staff, and it is one of the reasons the Mavericks were picked unanimously to repeat as Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) champions.
The Mavericks ranked seventh in all of Division II last season with a 3.18 Earned Run Average (ERA). CMU also led in almost every pitching category in the RMAC in 2017, including ERA, opponent batting average and strikeouts.
Some returning members of the staff include juniors Kyle Leahy, JR McDermott and AJ Landis, along with seniors Chris Ramirez and Jake Mielock.
Leahy, McDermott and Ramirez handled the bulk of the rotation, leading CMU’s staff as one of the best in the RMAC.
Kyle Leahy was selected as the RMAC preseason pitcher of the year after a stellar campaign that saw him lead all of Division II in wins with 13 while ranking second in Division II with a 1.74 ERA. He earned All-American honors and was named RMAC pitcher of the year as a sophomore last season.
McDermott finished with a 3.12 ERA, leading the team in strikeouts with 108. He was named to the preseason All-RMAC team for last year’s efforts. Ramirez followed McDermott with a 3.38 ERA and was second on the team in complete games with 3.
The three aces combined for a 32-2 win-loss record.
With so many returning players, the staff is confident in their ability to repeat their success.
“Last year, what kept us durable throughout the year was the constant unspoken accountability with each pitcher,” Chris Ramirez said. “The accountability is still there. We’re pretty good friends anyway, so it helps with boosting each other’s success.”
With the staff working on refining their game, day in and day out, it gives each pitcher a chance to find ways to improve themselves and work off one another to see what works and what doesn’t.
“We’re all a team, but we’re also a family on and off the field,” JR McDermott said. “Everyone’s got each other’s back and everyone knows that. You know they’re going to go out and do their best.”
Every pitcher has their own style and preparation that helps them succeed. With so many talented pitchers on this CMU staff, preparation is vital to ensure the success continues.
“As a staff, everyone sort of has their own routine and personality,” Kyle Leahy said. “You definitely have to be confident and believe in yourself and know that you can do what you’re trying to do.”
“I just try to go out there and have fun,” McDermott said. “We’re all kids at heart and we want to play this game as long as we can, and that’s what I try to take into every game. You want to compete too, you want to be the best out there and play for the guys next to you.”
The guidance from the coaching staff has helped propel the Mavericks staff to another level. Refining pitches to the point where you can locate it every single time is difficult in itself. But these Maverick pitchers are ready for the challenge.
“Teaching from afar has helped a lot. The coaches see things that they feel can help us. I think that’s what helped us out the most. They coach from afar and let us grow as individuals and as pitchers,” Ramirez said,
“The coaches put the pressure on you to be a self-starter, to get up every day and make sure you’re doing what you can to get better. They are just trying to get the best out of you,” Leahy added.
Players are awarded for their hard work. The pitchers on this staff have seen certain awards come their way. Although some are grateful to see their hard work is being recognized, there is still one award they covet: The NCAA Division II Baseball National Championship title.
The Mavericks made it all the way to the NCAA Division II World Series last spring for the fourth time in program history but failed to capture their first national title.
“Our goal is to win the Division II World Series and get back there especially because it’s left a sour taste in all of our mouths,” McDermott said.
CMU also accomplished their first 50-win season in program history. Pitching was considered one of the main beneficiaries of why the Mavericks’ baseball program is one of the best in the country.
“The awards are a nice way to know your work is paying off. But those awards are all for last year now. If those awards come again this year then that’s great, but there’s really only one award that didn’t come last year and that’s winning a National Championship. That’s the one I’m missing and that’s the one I want,” Leahy said.
This year will be a testament to how badly these talented pitchers want to accomplish their ultimate goal and the Mavericks will continue to build and build their program around the young and talented pitchers that continue to come through their program.
CMU will attempt to start the season fast and hot when they travel to La Jolla, Calif. to open their season against UC-San Diego on Feb. 9.