At one point this spring, Art Joven's college baseball career looked to be ending on an unceremonious note.
The former Highland High School standout and Boston Red Sox draft pick struggled in the early part of his senior season, where he made five appearances (two starts) as a pitcher for the University of Missouri. Having surrendered 13 earned runs in his first three appearances of 2020, he was set to enter SEC play with an ERA of 10.80.
Joven had a similar slow start in his first season in Columbia, surrendering two runs, three hits and four walks in just an inning in his first Division I appearance in 2019. But eventually, he smoothed things out, finishing the year 3-1 with a save and a 4.33 ERA in 19 appearances.
He seemed poised to make a similar improvement this season, as he struck out five without allowing a hit over four relief innings in a 6-2 win over Northern Illinois on March 10.
But that would be the last time Joven took the field in 2020. Just two days later, the remainder of the season was canceled in wake of the spreading coronavirus.
And while the NCAA did eventually grant all spring athletes an additional year of eligibility, Joven was still left searching for a new home. With the athletic department dealing with budget issues and a new crop of recruits coming in, Joven says he and his classmates were told their scholarships were being pulled.
Luckily, his search for a new landing spot was short-lived.
Joven had already developed a strong relationship with Cal State Bakersfield coaches following his sophomore season at the JUCO College of the Sequoias in 2018, where he went 9-2 with 119 strikeouts over 88.2 innings.
Though he ultimately turned down its initial offer, Joven says he still felt a connection to CSUB. And when he returned to Bakersfield in April looking for a place to use his final year of collegiate eligibility, he found his bond with the Roadrunner staff was a strong as ever.
As a result, he recently committed to the program for the 2021 season.
"I always stayed on good terms with the coaches at CSUB," Joven said. "We were always on good terms. And then when they found out I was coming back, we started talking again and it kind of felt like we kind of picked up where we left off.”
Joven, who recorded a team-high 65 strikeouts as a senior at Highland in 2016, says hometown crowds should expect a much more complete pitcher than the one they saw when he threw for the Scots.
“In high school, I wasn’t very knowledgeable about pitching," he said. "I just kind of just got out there and threw the ball. But now I’ve matured from a pitching standpoint. I’ve developed four pitches ... a fastball, change-up, slider and curveball ... that I can throw at any time now."
Hoping to eventually find his way onto a professional roster, Joven, who was taken in the 38th round of the 2018 MLB Draft by Boston, feels he's in a great spot to do so.
And after last season ended in disappointing, premature fashion, he's ready to bounce back, believing he'll be a great asset as the Roadrunners make the leap to the Big West.
"I felt it was right for me to come back to California," he said. "I'm just excited to get after it with those dudes. It's going to be a fun year."