Mavs hope three transfers solidify staff as starters
Two regular starters and a closer graduated. Another pitcher was picked up in the Major League Baseball draft.
So, at the outset of this season, pitching was an obvious concern for Colorado Mesa University baseball coach Chris Hanks.
He has seven returning pitchers, but only four with 14 or more innings, so Hanks picked up four college transfers, and he will lean on three of them — Aaron Corwin, Joey Danner and Matt Williams — to pick up a majority of the innings. All three are scheduled to start in Mesa’s home-opening series against Montana State-Billings this weekend. The first game is set for 2:30 p.m. Friday at Suplizio Field. The teams will play a doubleheader Saturday, starting at noon, and finish the series with a noon game Sunday.
“It’s always nice when you have experienced guys,” Hanks said. “It helps. Hopefully they afford you the opportunity to develop younger pitchers without putting pressure on them. It affords stability and opportunity for young guys to develop.”
Corwin, a senior, is one of three Mavericks on the Tino Martinez Award watch list. The Tino Martinez Award is given to NCAA Division II’s most outstanding baseball player. There are 151 players on the list to start the season. Others Mavericks on that list are Daktronics All-American shortstop Braden Box and RMAC preseason pitcher of the year Nolan Snell.
Corwin transferred from Division I Texas Tech University, where he set a Big 12 Conference single-season record with the lowest ERA (1.12) with a minimum of 15 innings pitched. He mostly pitched in a setup role in the eighth inning.
After his second year there, the coach was released from his contract, and the new coach made no promises. Corwin, who played one year at Feather River (Calif.) College before going to Texas Tech, contacted his Feather River coach for advice.
“The next thing I know I got a call from Coach Hanks, and he offered me a scholarship and a place to play,” said Corwin, who comes from a long line of transfers from Feather River at Mesa.
Mesa had three players from Feather River on its 2009 World Series team — pitchers Chris Shea and T.J. Butch and outfielder Chris Cassell.
Corwin’s drop down to Division II, after facing the caliber of hitters he saw in the Big 12, figures to translate to success, Hanks said.
“You would think he would be successful. Last weekend he was OK, but not where he needs to be. I anticipate improvement,” Hanks said.
Corwin is excited for an opportunity to start again. He gave up two earned runs on three hits in 3 2/3 innings in the season-opening loss at the University of California-San Diego.
“It’s definitely easier to be a starter for me,” Corwin said. “I can prepare a little bit easier. It was more of a transition at Tech. I’m excited about pitching deep into games and keep my team in it as long as possible.”
Williams transferred from Division II perennial national title contender University of Tampa on the recommendation of his junior college coach. The senior played for Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College in the 2010 Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
“When I was at Tampa, the program wasn’t really working for me,” Williams said. “I talked to my juco coach, and he recommended Mesa. I remember playing in the (JUCO) World Series (in Grand Junction). The atmosphere was awesome. The town itself is awesome.”
Williams, who is from Vero Beach, Fla., was pitching in relief at Tampa and wanted an opportunity to start. He’s getting it at Mesa.
“I expect him to be in the rotation,” Hanks said. “He’s a good pitcher.”
Danner came to Mesa after pitching at Glendale (Ariz.) Community College. He led his high school in Scottsdale, Ariz., to two state titles.
“I think I made a great decision,” Danner said. “I wouldn’t change my decision at all. There were a couple schools I was looking at, but this one stood out to me. I’ve enjoyed it so far.”
Hanks said Danner likely will start in the third game of the series this weekend. Williams will pitch Friday’s opener at 2:30 p.m., and Corwin will start Game 2 at noon Saturday.
Hanks said they are sticking with their early season pitching plan and won’t decide Sunday’s starter until after the third game.
“I think there are three guys, maybe more (for No. 1),” Hanks said. “The No. 1 position is very important to the kids. To me, as a coach, it doesn’t matter.
“A lot of people in recent years dodge our No. 1, which we particularly throw Friday night. What these kids don’t understand (is) pitching on Friday doesn’t necessarily mean you’re No. 1. We may move a kid pitching the best to Saturday to match their ... best pitcher. It may be something that changes week to week.”
Montana State-Billings (1-4-1) opened its season last weekend in the Metrodome Classic in Minneapolis, Minn. The Yellow Jackets were swept in a four-game series by Missouri Southern State University and went 1-0-1 against Dakota Wesleyan University.
“(The Yellow Jackets) are a growing program,” Hanks said. “I don’t know what to expect. They’ve played one series. We’ll assume they are solid and tough.”