Benji Caggianelli's first Division I offer came earlier than he was anticipating.
A talented but raw pitching prospect out of Ridgeview High School, Caggianelli had made strides in two seasons at Bakersfield College, particularly with his velocity. After throwing in the high 80s in high school, his fastball has been clocked as high as 95 miles per hour at BC.
But with his second season cut short by COVID-19, Caggianelli seemed content using his retained year of eligibility and returning to the Renegades in 2021, with hopes of making needed improvements that would catch the eye of D-I programs.
And while he will again sport a BC uniform this spring, he'll do so feeling considerably less pressure regarding his future.
Not wanting to stray too far from his home base, Caggianelli will continue playing in his home city for two additional seasons after announcing his commitment to play at Cal State Bakersfield, beginning in the 2022 season.
"I always dreamed of playing Division I baseball, especially in my hometown," he said. "I get to play in front of my family, I get to have the support of my parents. If I was out of town I'd be on my own, doing my own thing, but I wanted to stay to get that support."
With good friends like Roman Angelo and former Ridgeview teammate Aaron Charles already on board, Caggianelli won't have any trouble fitting into his new environment.
"When I go in, I won't be a stranger because I know almost half the team," he said. "I can show up and just start bonding automatically."
By the time he arrives to CSUB, Caggianelli hopes to have smoothed over some inconsistency, particularly with his control, that he's dealt with early in his college career.
He had his share of overpowering moments in 2020. In his final appearance of the season, he struck out 10 with just one walk in seven innings of work in a 5-3 win over LA Mission. This came two weeks after he struck out 11 without a walk in six innings against LA Pierce.
But sandwiched in between those outings was a 13-6 loss to Merced, where he walked five and allowed seven earned runs in just two innings.
Though some inconsistency remained, his strikeout-to-walk ratio (49-17) improved dramatically from his first season in 2019 (24-21), and Bakersfield College coach Tim Painton believes another year in the junior college ranks will help him further shore up some trouble areas.
"We hope he can grow and those command issues will be a thing of the past," Painton said. "It’s been kind of an evolution for him. I felt like his first year with us the strides were slow in coming. A year ago, velocity jumped up, he continued to get bigger and stronger. That was certainly a big step from where he was in high school."
Having prepared for such a moment since age seven, Caggianelli says everything fell into place so well with his first offer that there was no reason to wait and see if others would come.
"I've put in more than 10 years of playing this game," he said. "It’s everyone’s dream to play Division I baseball. All this hard work and sweat and tears and sometimes doubting yourself, (thinking about) maybe quitting. But I stuck with it and now I’m going to my dream school.”