Nerves remedied with a bit of coach’s confidence and good sense can only help Manhattan College baseball freshman pitchers William Fabra, Joe Jacques and Joey Rocchietti so much.
This is especially true on a team in which even as freshman, the pitcher’s mound is up for the taking. All pitchers know slacking isn’t an option because anyone can be called to pitch at any point during a game.
But these freshmen aren’t freshmen at all.
“They may be freshman in the classroom,” Head Coach Jim Duffy said, “but the one advantage we have over some of the fall sports is we don’t really expect our freshman to act like freshman anymore. They’ve been a part of the program now for almost eight months.”
Fabra, Jacques and Rocchietti each are growing into three different styles of pitcher while pitching reasonably well in their first season in collegiate baseball.
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Amongst the three freshman pitchers, Rocchietti sticks out the most with a solid ERA and impressive 12 walks to 21 strikeouts ratio. He was already named Rookie of the Week back in February.
Jacques acknowledged the difference in learning curves between high school baseball and Division I college baseball.
“Practicing off-speed pitches more because in high school it’s fastball after fastball,” Jacques said, “and you could get away with it no matter where it is. But here you have to throw your off-speed for strikes and you have to locate the pitch otherwise it’s going to hurt you.”
In high school a pitcher could get away with throwing a fastball down the middle of the plate in a 3-0 count. Whereas in DI, a pitcher has to throw off-speed otherwise the batter will tee the baseball directly in line with the barrel of the bat.
Another lesson being learned by Fabra, Jacques and Rocchietti is what Rocchietti calls “pitching backwards.” He said instead of throwing fastballs to get through an entire start in high school, in D1 it’s start the at-bat with a curveball and get ahead in the count.
“I find it a little tougher because every pitch has to be on every day or I’m not going that deep into the game,” Rocchietti said.
Despite optioning to develop these young arms, Duffy and his coaching staff are happy with what they’ve seen so far.
Rocchietti, who has pitched every opening game of every series since the start of the season, is the team’s ace and carries himself as such. Fabra has turned into a key arm in the bullpen with the continued piling up of quality starts from juniors Michael Martin and Sean Abbate – both respectively named Pitchers of Week earlier on in the season. Jacques is a self-defined “crafty lefty” who proved as a walk-on he is talented enough to be on the team.
These three freshman arms know what they have to do to have success and how to learn as they go at this level of baseball.
“Mainly it’s becoming more of a pitcher,” Rocchietti said. “In high school, I would say that I was more of a thrower. More fastballs just going at my own pace quickly, I would never really get into trouble. Here I get into trouble and I keep moving fast, and the game is moving too fast for me and when I’m moving too fast that’s when the problems start and things start going haywire.”