The Lakeland senior struck out 12 in five innings of a combined no-hitter against Mid Valley.
Family: father, John; mother, Deborah; sister, Abby
Favorite sports team: New York Yankees and for football wise, Dallas Cowboys.
Athletes you admire: I’m going to go with Max Scherzer and Marcus Stroman. … (With Scherzer) I would just say his pitchability, just how well he commands his pitches and how comfortable he looks out on the mound. And then for Stroman wise, I would just say the energy and emotion that he pitches with, that’s something I kind of try to go off.
Three people you’d like to have dinner with: My grandfather I never got to meet, John Krazan. … David Goggins — he’s a former Navy SEAL, he’s an author and now he’s an ultramarathon runner. And then the last person I’ll go with is Derek Jeter.
Favorite food: Chicken. Grilled chicken, preferably.
Most famous person you’ve met: Maybe Al Leiter? I was on the Area Code team out in Cali with (his son). That’s when I met him.
Is he a pretty good guy? Yeah, he always, from when I threw out there, he had really good things to say about just how I looked out there. Gave me motivation and kind of just told me to keep working hard and stay at it.
Having faced Mid Valley so much, have you tried to change things up on them? Yeah, so this year, going out Game 1, we knew, Adam and I spoke before the game and we always kind of try to get on the same page prior to the game. We were talking and knew that we had to come out doing something different. Because they knew — I always knew that they’re a fastball-hitting team. And my curveball’s gotten a lot better over the offseason. That’s something that we’ve worked on, and I threw that way more often this time around and I think that’s what kind of helped me power past them. … Like right off the bat in the game, I threw, to the first batter, I threw two sweeping curveballs and that kind of started it off.
How were you feeling that game? I went out on the mound and I felt just really comfortable and loose. I didn’t have much pressure on me. I felt more loose than other times out there. I just kind of went out and cleared my mind and knew I had to pitch a good game. It ended up working out.
How often do you bring out the changeup? Over the offseason, we worked on a lot of tunneling different pitches. Something I really wanted to get better with was my right-on-right changeup, and I think this year, that’s a huge pitch for me because I’ve got so much more movement on my changeup over this offseason that I think I feel confident throwing it in any count. I think that’s what’s going to help separate me from hitters this year.
How are those other guys on the pitching staff coming along this year, because you had to replace Dom Verrastro from last year? Shane Barrett, I would say he’s our No. 2 right now and he’s really stepping up. He’s the righty. … He’s on the smaller side — he’s only like 5-8, 5-9 — but he does a great job using his legs. He’s someone who really worked hard in the offseason and it’s showing because his fastball, his velos went up and he’s just doing a much better job controlling all three of his pitches. Hunter Snyder, the lefty, he’s doing a really good job as well. He worked on his offspeed a lot this offseason and I think that’s what’s going to help separate him. Because last year, he was mainly just a two-seam fastball guy. And now he’s learned how to throw a four-seam fastball along with a dirty curveball and a changeup. So, I think having all three of those pitches is what’s really going to help him this year.Do you like where the team is at this year? You lost a lot of guys from last year’s team. I feel like we have a lot of young talent. Like young, raw talent, actually. Losing those five key players from last year — Ryan (Vaverchak), Nico (Piraino), Matt (Hayes), Dom (Verrastro), Shane Novitsky — I think the younger freshmen and sophomores are really stepping up this year. I think that they could definitely fill those roles. They’re impressing me the way they’re playing at this time now. They’re doing a really good job off the start of the season.
Which batter do you hate facing in the Lackawanna League? I would have to say (Mid Valley’s) Brendan Kucharski, just because he’s just a big lefty and he knows how to cover the plate. He can drive the ball in any way and you just really have to be smart when pitching to him. You can’t leave anything up in the zone and you really can’t leave anything over the plate, because he’ll get a hold of it and if he does, it’s going to go far.
You and catcher Adam Retzbach have been together for four years now. Can you read each others’ minds at this point? I feel like we have an amazing connection. We seem like we’re always on the same page with pitch (selection) when he’s calling the games. We really do a great job working together and he does a great job calling the game and looking into who’s up beforehand and just knowing what each batter does. He’s just a really smart catcher and that helps a lot.
You mentioned you were looking at some pitch tunneling stuff. How seriously did you get into that? Not very seriously. We just looked at different ways my pitches move and we kind of just focused on trying to just work on getting batters out more efficiently. Because last year, I felt like we tried to work around too many guys and I’d be going for the strikeout. This year, I have more confidence in the guys behind me, my defense. I have more trust in them to make the plays. I think this year, we’re going to just try to limit the walks and really more throw to them.
Your curveball — do you still throw it the way you always have? Or did you make changes? I kind of have two different curveballs, or if you want to say a curve and a slurve. I still have my 12-6 curveball that I’ve always kind of thrown, but over the offseason, I kind of developed a more sweeping curveball. I would say it’s more like a slider because it cuts across the plate. That’s definitely a pitch that I’ve been using when I’ve gotten ahead in the counts just to kind of work on it. And like I said like with the pitch tunneling, it goes off different angles. Like if I’m throwing an inside fastball, the way my arm’s coming across, if I’m throwing that sweeping curve and I throw it low and outside, then that gives me a good advantage over the hitters because it looks like that inside fastball.
Who taught you how to throw that 12-6 curveball? You come right over the top with it. I go to ProStaff Baseball, and that’s run by Ronnie Chiavacci. He’s a former major league player. I’ve been with him since I’ve been nine years old. I kind of owe everything that I’ve learned from him. He taught me that curveball. It works pretty well.
You went to the Area Code games. Is that something travel ball helped you reach? I play my travel ball for Baseball U. Over the summer, coach (Mike) Guy, he’s the one who really has opened up all the doors for me. Working with him the last two summers, he just does an amazing job. He’s really good with the kids and he really knows how to coach and get kids looked at by colleges.
You committed to Virginia as a sophomore. When I went down my sophomore summer, I kind of just liked everything about it. They kind of just had everything I was looking for. They’re known for an outstanding academic reputation, and along with their baseball facility and their coaches, I feel like they’re the top in college sports. But I’m really excited to go down and experience college life and I’m looking forward to it. I head down July 4, actually. So, pretty early.