Guinn has made transition from starter to closer for Mavs

Mesa State baseball bullpen closer Aaron Guinn

When Aaron Guinn comes in to pitch, catcher Grant Vickers doesn’t have to say much.
Guinn, the Mesa State College baseball pitcher, is fired up and ready to go.

“When Guinn gets on the hill, I go out there and give him the ball and I just say ‘Me and you, let’s stay together, let’s get after it,’ ” Vickers said. “I don’t even need to say anything, really. You can see it in his eyes.  He’s real confident out there. We’re always on the same page. You know you’re going to win the game.

“He’s definitely got the right mindset to be a closer. He wants to win so bad. He finds a way to win.”

Guinn, who is 5-2 with a 1.56 ERA and nine saves, usually get the job done. Last weekend in the regional tournament, the senior right-hander picked up one win and two saves for the Mavericks (43-13), who clinched their first NCAA Division II World Series berth in school history. Mesa plays Belmont Abbey (N.C.) College (38-34) at 11 a.m. (MDT) Saturday at the USA Baseball Training Complex in Cary, N.C.

Guinn (pronounced like Tony Gwynn) was a starting pitcher when he transferred to Mesa State last year from Spokane Falls (Wash.) Community College.

“I was kind of in limbo last year,” Guinn said. “I felt like I could help the team as a starter, but I got moved to middle relief. Toward the end of the year, I was at the back of the bullpen with (Kevin) Chritzy. I closed a game or two, but I guess it really didn’t cross anybody’s mind that might be the right role for me.  I always thought of myself as a starter.”

Guinn started five games and made 11 appearances out of the bullpen in 2008. He was 3-0 with a 5.80 ERA and one save.

Last fall, assistant coach Blaine Bernades tried him in the closer role during the fall series team scrimmage.

“In the fall series, I’m the commissioner and I make rules on disputes from the stands,”

Mesa State coach Chris Hanks said. “ One of the games was close and I first questioned the decision on why (Bernades) didn’t start Guinn in that game. Then as the game moved on, I saw him warming up Guinn in the bullpen and I thought, ‘Interesting.’  Aaron is a high energy, max effort, intense kid. Those things all match what you need in a closer . Afterward, I thought that is a good idea and that’s where it sprung.”

Bernades, a former Mesa State catcher from 2004 to 2007, saw some similarities of previous closers, such as Mesa’s all-time saves leader, Keith Nelson.

“You look at closer as a max effort (pitcher),” Bernades said. “His mentality is I’m not going to let anybody on base.  (Guinn’s) mentality of getting after guys and not letting up is what you look for in a closer.”

Although Guinn wasn’t sure about it at first, he’s grown to like coming in in at the end of the game.

“The first game I closed at Grand Canyon, I remember going out there thinking, ‘Wow, this is definitely different coming in this situation,’ ” Guinn said. “I was nervous, a lot of balls were up.  From there, it’s got easier. Once I step on the field, I’m out there with a purpose. I try to focus on what I need to do.

“ I feel like Skip (Hanks) has trusted me and I’m hoping I can continue make that decision pay off.”

Guinn has succeeded for a couple of reasons. One, he has the mentality to handle it and two, he has the physical tools and pitches.

“He’s got an I’ll-brawl-you-in-the-street mentality,” Hanks said. “ He has great belief in himself. He has the right competitive attitude. He wants the ball in that situation and those things are all key. ”


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