The transition to college baseball is one that many high school athletes have trouble with.
However, for Ball State freshman Zach Plesac, the jump appears to be seamless.
Coming out of Crown Point High School, Plesac quickly embraced his role in the Cardinals’ bullpen. Through the team’s first 21 games, Plesac’s five victories are by far the highest on the team. Scott Baker and Nestor Bautista are next with two.
Within the first seven days of his career at Ball State, he won the Mid-American Conference pitcher of the week award.
“It was cool,” Plesac said about receiving the award. “I was getting shout-outs on Twitter, I was shouting people back; It was good, I’m happy for it.”
Plesac has always placed high expectations on himself and he attributes his success to his work ethic and the time he puts into honing his craft.
In addition to the wins and saves, Plesac has held opposing batters to a .218 batting average, which is a team-low and has allowed only six runs to score. The more than 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio he currently holds is also a team best.
Head coach Rich Maloney, who had initially heard of Plesac from an old college teammate, said he knew instantly that the 6-foot-3-inch right-handed pitcher could be a special asset to his team.
After seeing Plesac throw a single pitch, Maloney offered him a scholarship.
While the freshman’s start has left many in awe, Maloney saw it coming.
“I thought it wouldn’t be a problem for him,” he said on Plesac’s transition to the college game. “I expected that he would be really good right off the bat, I really did. He’s so physically mature. … He has a cockiness, a confidence that only the gifted ones have.”
Plesac has a chance to challenge the school’s All-Time record of 11 victories in a season. While the likelihood for a relief pitcher to accumulate that number of wins is low, Plesac has shown the ability to pull it off.
The presence the young pitcher displays on the mound has not gone unnoticed by his teammates either. Scott Baker, Cardinals ace and last season’s MAC pitcher of the year, said the team gets a lift when Plesac is called from the pen.
“It’s a big boost,” Baker said. “We have confidence in him that he is going to pitch well and that we can win when [games] are close.”
At some point during his Ball State career, Plesac could evolve into the team’s frontline starter. His current role in the bullpen, however, is one that Maloney thinks fits his “calm, cool and collected” demeanor perfectly.
Knowing that on most occasions he will not be asked to pitch an extended amount of innings, Plesac is able to rear back and fire his fastball upwards of 95 mph. His repertoire also includes a slider as well as a developing changeup.
A variety of pitches are a necessity to be successful both in college and at higher levels.
Plesac’s college career has barely gotten underway, but playing professional baseball has always been his long-term goal.
“That’s my only dream,” Plesac said. “That’s what I’m trying to do — there’s one focus.”
For now, leading the team in wins and earned run average will have to do.