If you really wanted to watch Gerrit Cole, the potential No. 1 overall pick in this year’s 2011 MLB Draft, you might do something as drastic as hike two miles through the backwoods to get to Jackie Robinson Stadium. You might, but I did.
Cole was called upon to start the opening round game of the NCAA Regionals against Fresno State in front of a packed house. The game created so much buzz that even Luke Wilson dropped by to check out Cole pitch (he kept a low profiles sitting in the cheap seats).
The young star did not disappoint, at least stuff-wise, but it was clear that he was a bit flustered in the short span I got to see him on the hill. With collegiate-level defenders playing behind you, shoddy defense is to be expected, and Cole was in part victimized by that.
But back to the stuff. His fastball is not untouchable, but hitters were often very late if they caught up at all. His slider looked to have considerable bite and his changeup was solid, even if for the most part Fresno State hitters didn’t look too overmatched.
The final line on Cole read this: 7.1 innings pitched, 11 hits allowed, three earned runs, one walk, 11 strikeouts. He was outshined by his counterpart, Kyle Zimmer, but for me at least, Cole was the reason I paid the $10 just to be able to see him toss a couple of innings.
One of the things I had to keep reminding myself was that as good as Cole may one day be, he is still only in college at this point and has a long way to go to become the superstar people are projecting him as. An NCAA pitcher that can touch 95 mph is rare and special, and Cole may just be both. But alas, he cannot do it all by himself, and UCLA’s bats were silenced by Zimmer in a 3-0 loss.