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Kyle Crockett didn't find out he was the Cavaliers' new closer until the season opener, but he has dominated since.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Virginia baseball coach Brian O’Connor is more than happy to take responsibility for the only blemish on Kyle Crockett’s pitching record.
Crockett, the Cavaliers’ closer, takes an 0.62 earned run average into a three-game series as seventh-ranked UVa (32-6, 13-5 ACC) entertains No. 5 Florida State (31-6, 13-5) starting at 6 tonight at Davenport Field.
After 18 appearances, Crockett has a 3-0 record and seven saves, but this is his most impressive statistic:
Crockett, a junior left-hander, has struck out 37 batters and yielded one walk in 29 innings.
What’s more, he was following instructions with the walk, which occurred when O’Connor called for an intentional pass Sunday in a 3-2 UVa loss at Georgia Tech.
Crockett’s strikeout-to-walk ratio before that was 34-0.
“I told him that a lot was being made of his streak,” O’Connor said, “so, I’d just make it so he didn’t have to think about it anymore.”
Crockett knew that wasn’t the case. Georgia Tech had a runner on third base and the walk set up a double play.
“Obviously, it was the correct decision because we got the double-play ball,” Crockett said.
That was Crockett’s only outing in a three-game series with the Yellow Jackets, but he earlier had pitched in eight straight games. He had saves in five consecutive games, a school record, but somehow was overlooked for ACC pitcher of the week.
“Geez, five saves in a week,” said O’Connor, his voice rising. “Who does that? Nobody does that. If that doesn’t deserve somebody recognizing him, what does?”
O’Connor noted that Crockett twice was in line for saves in a weekend series at Miami before late-game UVa scoring bursts negated the save situation.
Crockett, a 6-foot-2, 170-pound graduate of Poquoson High School, was a reliever almost exclusively in his first two years at UVa but did not have a save until this year.
The closer role was not an unfamiliar one thanks to his experience last summer with the Orleans (Mass.) Firebirds of the Cape Cod League.
“Our original closer got hurt,” he said. “I wasn’t the original closer, [but] I enjoyed that a lot.”
Viewers of the recent Virginia-Wake Forest telecast could see Crockett get up to 91 mph on his fastball, but he doesn’t blow people away.
“He’s actually been up as high as 93-94,” said O’Connor, who pitched on Creighton’s 1991 College World Series team. “His command of the fastball on both sides of the plate is as good as you see and he’s throwing his off-speed stuff for strikes.
”You’re going to have to beat Kyle Crockett because he’s not going to beat himself.”
Crockett pitched 2 2⁄ 3 innings Wednesday night in a 10-9 UVa victory over Old Dominion, which speaks to his durability, but it says even more about his efficiency. He threw only 15 pitches in recording five outs.
No wonder he’s never had arm problems.
Crockett said he didn’t learn he would be UVa’s closer this season until the eve of the Cavaliers’ season-opening trip to East Carolina in February.
“I was going to wait and see if I needed to put him in the rotation,” O’Connor said. “He was our most experienced guy and I felt like having him at the end of the game was really important. Something would have to change significantly for us not to keep him in that role.”
Crockett was hardly an overnight sensation, having entered the season with an 8-2 record and a 2.15 ERA to show for 59 appearances over two years. He came into the season with an 89-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
“He’s been a pretty darned good pitcher for two years but he’s way better than he was last year,” O’Connor said. “In the first half of the season, I’d be shocked if there’s somebody out there who has better numbers than he does.”
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