Alejandro Murillo has always seemed to thrive pitching in front of a hometown crowd.
First taking the mound at age 10, Murillo had a decorated career at Stockdale High School, where he went 17-5 in three years as a varsity pitcher. This included a three-hit, complete-game performance in a 4-1 win over Clovis North in the Division-I Central Section semifinals in 2018. Murillo also pitched the final inning of that season's section championship game, a 6-0 Mustang win over Clovis West.
Such success continued when he enrolled at hometown Bakersfield College. In 14 starts as a freshman, he compiled a 10-2 record with a 3.31 ERA and 70 strikeouts, good enough to earn 2019 Western State South Pitcher of the Year honors.
And after a great start to his sophomore season at BC, he's ready to take his talents out of town. Murillo officially made the jump to the next level last week, committing to continue his pitching career at the University of Nevada.
Despite it being more than six hours from home, Murillo says he has more of a personal connection to the Wolf Pack's Reno campus than many realize. Though he moved to Bakersfield when he was just five months old, Alejandro was actually born in Las Vegas, and his parents, Jorge and Lilie, were Nevada residents for many years.
"Being born there really drew me towards Nevada," he said. "That just made me feel at home."
Landing at a D-I school was always the ultimate goal for Murillo, who came to BC as a raw, underdeveloped project, but will leave as someone Renegade coach Tim Painton says "checks almost all the boxes" you want a college pitcher to check.
"There’s so many guys that get on the mound that really don’t know how to pitch," Painton said. "They struggle with command or they struggle with knowing how to get a hitter out. I think he’s a highly intelligent young man and it’s something he knows how to do well. He competes at an extremely high level and he just doesn’t beat himself."
Thanks to an improved fastball -- which now hovers around 90 mph after topping out at 83 early in his freshman year -- Murillo transformed into a much more overpowering force early in the 2020 season. Despite already equalling his loss total from a season ago, he was, by nearly every measure, a much-improved pitcher in the seven appearances he made before the Renegades' season was canceled.
His ERA was an impressively low 1.63, while his strikeout-per-nine-inning rate jumped from 7.47 to 10.71. The highlight of his season came in a Feb. 6 game against El Camino, where he struck out 15 batters without a walk, scattering three hits and surrendering one unearned run in nine innings.
Coming out of high school, Murillo acknowledges that he wasn't yet a Division-I caliber pitcher. Such self-doubt is no longer an issue.
"In high school, I felt like I couldn't compete at that level yet because of my velocity and size," he said. "But maturing in college, I definitely feel like I can now. Going through a full season of junior college baseball, I realized what it took to play at that level."
As he prepares to face a jump in competition, Murillo is eager to spend the ensuing months working tirelessly to make further improvements to his game.
"I'm not going to stop," he said. "They're going to get a contact pitcher that's going to keep striving to get better. Someone that's always going to keep working."