Out Of the Pen, Arizona’s Baugh Excels For Turks

7/6/2006 – Daily News Record

Daily News Record Written By Joe Lemire Matt Baugh has a 1.96 ERA for Harrisonburg this summer. The Turks’ game at Winchester was rained out Tuesday night. Matt Baugh didn’t pitch in any of Arizona’s first 25 baseball games, and it took extra innings in the second game of an April 1 doubleheader before Baugh was summoned from the bullpen for the first time. He must have thought it was an April Fool’s joke. Though the Wildcats went on to lose to California-Berkeley 5-4, Baugh threw three shutout innings of relief, throwing 36 of his 49 pitches for strikes, allowing three hits and no walks and striking out three batters. The once little-used reliever – and current Harrisonburg Turks starter – would pitch again the next day against nationally ranked Arizona State and twice more the following weekend at eventual NCAA champion Oregon State. In his two relief stints against the Beavers, Baugh threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out four and yielding just two base runners. "That’s when I really started getting a lot of innings, after that," the rising junior from Antioch, Calif., said. Baugh, a left-hander, went on to toss 40 2/3 innings for Arizona with a 2-1 record and a 5.53 earned-run average, but he sparkled in his lone start, beating Southern Utah 18-0 and recording 10 strikeouts in seven innings. It’s in that role as a starter that Baugh has excelled for the Turks, boasting a 3-0 record and 1.96 ERA while holding opponents to a .193 batting average. Most recently, he beat Staunton on Monday for the second time this season, giving up just one run in seven innings. The soft-spoken Baugh has the same quiet demeanor on and off the field, and he’s been as unflappable against Valley League competition as he was against top college teams like Oregon State. "He doesn’t have mood changes," Harrisonburg owner/coach Bob Wease said. "I’ve never seen his mood change at all. That’s a very good trait. It’s a sign of maturity and it’s a sign of becoming a professional athlete." Steadying his emotions is a concerted effort to remain unruffled on the mound. "I try to do that because, I mean, if you lose a big game, you’ve got to realize it’s just a game," said Baugh, an economics major at Arizona. "You can’t take it too seriously, or it might affect your next outing. … It’s baseball – you always get another chance." Baugh returned to Harrisonburg for a second summer to reacquaint himself with the craft of being a starting pitcher. In college, he’s made just one career start in 26 appearances, but that’s the role Wease said the Arizona coaches want him used this summer. Baugh said he prefers starting but is open to either. "I think I could do both," he said. "You just have to understand the mental part of both of them. Starting, you get a whole week to prepare. In middle relief, you might throw every night. You just have to look at them differently." Baugh has decent size and is a little stronger than he was a year ago. He’s 6-foot-2 and weighs 200 pounds, but his fastball is only in the 85 to 87 mile-per-hour range. Instead, he’s effectively been using his offspeed pitches to get outs. "I’m working on pitching inside more," Baugh said. "I’ve been doing a lot of that and working on my breaking ball. My change-up’s been pretty good." A boon to any pitcher’s confidence is a familiarity with his catcher. In Baugh’s case, he’s been fortunate enough that his college catcher, Matt Denker, is also a Turk and has caught three of Baugh’s four starts. "He knows every pitch I’m thinking about throwing, and we have all our signs down," Baugh said. By the look of his first 23 innings this summer, he has starting pitching down, too.