No trouble with the curve

By Jacob Knabel on Apr. 5, 2019 in Baseball

By his own admission, Jake Fosgett was little more than an average high school pitcher. His ultra-slender build and, in his own words, “not very good” junior and senior prep seasons did little to catch the eye of college recruiters. Fortunately for the native of Carlsbad, Calif., a certain coach from a school in Nebraska happened to notice him.

Baseball scouting is an inexact science, but Concordia University head baseball coach Ryan Dupic saw something in the then 6-foot-2 right-hander during a showcase in California. The way Fosgett spun that breaking ball made Dupic’s eyes light up.

“He was about 135 pounds and he came out to pitch (during the showcase),” Dupic said. “A group of us coaches were taking turns evaluating pitchers. I just saw the way the ball came out of his hand. He threw a really crisp breaking ball. It was some other coach’s turn to evaluate and I could tell he wasn’t paying attention so I budged in to evaluate so I could talk to Jake afterwards. I just felt like this guy’s got a chance to be really good.”

Fosgett turned out to be at the right place at the right time. Asked if anyone else showed interest in him for college baseball, Fosgett quickly replies with a simple, “No.” Not a single one – other than Concordia. Dupic has a keen eye for pitching and for projecting arms like his into the future. That curveball was too good to ignore.

That curve also made it too difficult to leave Fosgett in the bullpen, where he resided as both a freshman and sophomore for the Bulldogs. The 15 innings he threw in 2018 were not enough to maximize the value that Fosgett brings to the table. Now 31 appearances into his college career, Fosgett has honed swing-and-miss stuff that has resulted in 101 strikeouts in 75.1 innings at Concordia. Over his last three starts (three complete games), he has allowed a grand total of one run.

“It’s been mostly about mentality,” Fosgett says of his success. “I learned a lot from my first start in Oklahoma (versus MidAmerica Nazarene). The wind was blowing out pretty hard and I was getting frustrated with that. I learned from that pretty quickly. One of the things I’ve been telling myself is to control the controllables. You have to focus on what you can do in an outing. I applied that in Tucson and that went well so I’ve used that same mentality since then.”

In Fosgett’s transition from ace reliever to starter, he gave up six earned runs in his first start and then five earned runs in his second. Those results were perhaps an indication that it would take time to adjust, but some of the underlying numbers were encouraging. He fanned 17 hitters over those two games. Since then, he’s been lights out.

Fosgett will still have to earn the role of staff ace in a friendly competition within a rotation that also includes Sasha Jabusch, Jason Munsch and Tanner Wauhob. Together they have helped Concordia record four shutouts in a row. Clearly the move is working for Fosgett.

“We had him as our closer and we felt really good every time we brought him in,” Dupic said. “He did a really good job but when we looked at the volume of innings, we felt like we weren’t maximizing a guy who we knew was pretty good. He wanted to be a starter so we wanted to make sure he would be effective in that role. He had a great summer and was very focused. He came back in the fall and he was fantastic.”

With the help of Dupic, Fosgett is pitching better than he ever has before. His fastball can touch 90 miles per hour, his curveball is a wipeout pitch and he will sometimes mix in a slider. That arsenal has helped him step into the vacancies created by the departures of last year’s Nos. 1 and 2 starters.

“Relieving the past two years I had to be ready on a daily basis,” Fosgett said. “Last year I was up getting hot in the bullpen most games. This year it’s been more about building up, feeling good for your start and then recovering for the next one. The biggest change was in the offseason. We built up volume in bullpens and live at bats to prepare my arm to throw a lot more pitches.”

To demonstrate his commitment to the new role, Fosgett even cut short a family vacation so he could stay with his summer regimen. These are the sorts of things that come together for teams that win when the real games come around. Fosgett has been nearly spotless against conference competition while helping the Bulldogs to a 10-0 record in league play.

Fosgett was part of the 2017 GPAC championship squad at Concordia, so he knows something about what it takes to win a title. There is certainly a long way to go, but the stacking of wins now is going to make a difference later when a champion is crowned. Fosgett and the Bulldogs are playing like a team with something to prove after last season’s sixth-place finish in the GPAC.

“I think one of the biggest differences is just trusting yourself,” Fosgett said. “We have a lot of returners who have been on the varsity for a long time. They’ve been leading the way from a mentality standpoint and have just been confident each outing. Coach has been preaching for us to be even-keeled. I approach it like we’re a 0-0 team just trying to get some wins.”

Concordia now owns the No. 1 ERA in the GPAC while riding a streak of 42 consecutive innings without surrendering an earned run. Fosgett explains it in part by saying, “Coach Dupic knows his stuff really well.” A mutual respect makes trust come easy. Perhaps it also makes it easier to poke fun at each other.

Dupic’s first impression of Fosgett in simplistic terms was that this was a skinny kid from California with a good curveball. Now Fosgett has added good weight (and facial hair), refined his pitching skills and has become a mature leader who sets a fine example for his teammates. It all started with that meeting at a showcase in California. Dupic essentially gave a verbal offer on the spot.

Says Fosgett, “The funny story with Coach is when I ask him, ‘What did you see in me?’ He told me, ‘I saw a good curveball.’ Jokingly I’ll tell him, ‘All I am is a curveball to you.’”