Shining bright under the lights
Chipola coach knew Steele was capable of special game
After 143 pitches Friday night, Evan Steele walked off Suplizio Field to a standing ovation.
It was a pitching performance Chipola College (Florida) has been waiting for all season. Coach Jeff Johnson had no doubt that his big left-hander was capable of this type of game at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
“You know, we’ve been waiting for that kind of pitching performance the whole tournament,” Johnson said, smiling
Steele didn’t give up a hit until the fifth inning, and went eight innings, struck out 12 and allowed three hits to propel the Indians into the tonight’s title game.
Time and time again, Steele got big outs and ended possible San Jacinto rallies by making clutch pitches.
After the game, Steele was emotional talking about how much fun he’s had playing for Chipola this season.
“My emotions aren’t really about how well I did, or how poorly I did, what pitches I made,” he said, then his voice started to crack. “It’s more about this team, this brotherhood, for me it’s emotional knowing that this is the last time I’ll get to pitch for them. I’ve got a bunch of brothers on this team and I’m going to miss every single one of them.”
Coming into JUCO, Steele had some health issues and only pitched 32 innings on the season.
“It was weird, I was throwing and feeling fine,” he said. “Then I woke up one morning and couldn’t feel my arm. It was like it was asleep.”
The next day he had bruising all the way up the inside of his left arm.
A trip to the doctor revealed a blood clot.
Steele smiled at the memory.
“I actually learned from my mom that blood clots are really dangerous. I had no idea. I thought it was a small little thing and she told me I gotta take care of myself,” he said.
After a decent performance by Steele on opening day —six inning, five hits and two earned runs — Johnson knew Steele was ready to go Friday.
“I can’t say enough about Evan. He was hot (Thursday) to go and we held off a day,” Johnson said. “I knew he was ready to go (Friday). He didn’t pitch as well as he wanted to pitch in that first game, and I think he was very motivated to pitch well.”
Friday night’s gem was the longest performance of the year for Steele.
“We haven’t put him out there that long all year and I feel like you can do that once a year,” Johnson said.
Steele’s high Friday night has come with some lows during an emotional college career.
He transferred to Chipola from Vanderbilt this season, and last season, he went through one of the toughest things he’s ever gone through.
His Vanderbilt roommate, Donnie Everett, died in a tragic downing accident. Steele said he will always honor his former teammate, who wore No. 41.
“Every single game I go out there and I have this coin from his funeral, and I draw ‘DE 41’ on the back on the mound for him,” he said.
Johnson was impressed with how hard Steele worked when he arrived from the Division I school.
“You have a guy who’s been to Vanderbilt University, one of the best schools in the country, who’s come in here and is receptive to learning, receptive to listening and works everyday and does the things he needs to do,” Johnson said.
Steele wanted to come to a program that had a chance to make it to JUCO, and he was focused on helping the team.
“My coaches prepared me well,” he said. “I can’t say enough about our coaches and the way they prepare for us for every game. It just reinforces the standards and reinforces the groundwork.”