Roman Angelo has grown — in several different ways — for the Cal State Bakersfield baseball team. The CSUB freshman and Bakersfield Christian graduate added another pitch to his repertoire, adjusted his mentality and even grew an inch or two taller since he joined the squad.
“His stuff has gotten a lot better. He’s gotten a lot stronger. His velocity has picked up. The depth on all of his pitches has gotten better,” Roadrunners head coach Jeremy Beard said during an interview last month. “And he’s a late bloomer. He’s actually literally grown in height and we want to keep getting him stronger. As he grows, he has a chance to be a big-time guy at this level.”
In his first season, Angelo is fourth on the team with a 3.39 earned run average and has CSUB’s third-best opponent batting average at .214. He surpassed expectations quickly and initially developed fast to earn a spot in the Roadrunners’ starting rotation.
He'll look to keep it going this week in the 2019 WAC Tournament. The No. 5-seeded Roadrunners open play Wednesday in Mesa, Arizona with a 2 p.m. game against No. 4 Grand Canyon.
“He’s been showing out lately as a freshman,” CSUB junior pitcher Darius Vines said. “Nobody, honestly, expected him to do what he’s been doing this year. But I don’t know, (there must be) something in his water or something. He’s dealing.”
Angelo graduated from BCHS standing at about 6-foot-3, a right-handed pitcher not yet aware of the everyday rigors of college baseball. When he got to CSUB, his pitch velocity was down and he would joke around, Vines said and Angelo confirmed.
Vines and some of the other older pitchers on the team talked to Angelo about getting serious, which the freshman did. They also told him never to get complacent after a good outing.
Angelo adopted a mentality on the mound throwing his best pitches for strikes, regardless of the opponent in the batter’s box.
“Most guys as freshmen, of course they’ll get rattled by stats or who’s in the box,” Vines said. “Whereas him (Angelo), he kind of doesn't really care. ‘Get in the box and I’ll throw you what I got to throw you. It’s my stuff, hit it.’”
In the fall preseason, Angelo added a change-up to his pitching repertoire. Beard talked to Angelo about the advantages of a change-up and Angelo asked all the hitters on the team what the hardest pitch for them to hit was. Most said a change-up, Angelo said.
He studied online videos and eventually found one breaking down MLB pitcher Zack Greinke’s change-ups from an All-Star Game. Angelo modeled his pitch after Greinke’s with a few tweaks.
Now, he considers the change-up his best pitch. He’s willing to throw it in any count and has two slightly different versions of it he can break out.
“You get out in front of that, it makes you look like a fool,” Vines said.
The combination of Angelo’s two sinking fastballs and two sinking change-ups throws hitters off, Beard added.
Beard has helped Angelo fine tune his mechanics and get in the weight room to fill into his continuously expanding body.
Even though Angelo has flourished plenty already, Beard said, there’s exponentially more opportunity ahead.
“He’s starting to become a young man and he has so much growth ahead of him,” Beard said. “For him to come in to this league at this level, to attack the zone the way that he does with his sink and what he brings to the table, it’s just a matter of physical growth and mental growth for him. He has a bright future.”