There's a pitcher with a mean split-finger fastball on the Loyola Marymount baseball team who brings much-needed relief to the defending West Regional champion Lions--not to mention Coach Dave Snow.
His name is Darryl Scott, a 6-1, 180-pound freshman recruited out of Yuba City High in Northern California, and he's Loyola's head man on the mound.
"He was so dominating and poised that he was able to throw every other day," said Assistant Coach Donny Perry. "He's very, very strong."
Snow recruited the 19-year-old for long relief while he adjusted to college ball. But adjusting was no problem for Scott, who has been pitching since he was 9.
His early start reflects his upbringing. His grandfather played baseball at Stanford and his father at Fresno State, both strong baseball programs, for years. So Scott's arm was put to work early, and it has paid off.
"He's the best pitcher we've got," said Snow, who did not have much else to cheer about after his team got off to a slow start.
Last season, when his team swept the NCAA Western Regional championships, Snow was joyous. This season he was not happy when his team slipped from Baseball America's No. 3 preseason ranking to 19th after losses--three to cross-town rival Pepperdine.
But the Lions have won eight straight games and improved to a 30-14-1 record.
In the early going only Scott was impressive on the mound.
The right-hander has a 7-4 record with two saves. "It's still early in the season and he's already established himself," Snow said. "We're excited that he's done so well so soon."
The coach added: "He isn't an overpowering pitcher. He's got resiliency and mental toughness and those are good ingredients for a relief pitcher."
Those ingredients weren't assembled overnight.
When Scott was 15, he was throwing for an Alaskan team in American Legion ball. His parents had divorced and his mother had moved to Alaska, where he spent summers.
"Except for my first year, I was always a starter up there," Scott said. "Now it doesn't matter. I don't mind relieving."
By 16, Scott had moved up to pitch in the Thoroughbred League, which is open to college players 19 to 22 years old.
"I always played in higher leagues," Scott said. "They had to forge my age and it said I was 19 and had played for some school in Arizona that I had never heard of.
"A scout came up to me and said, 'I've scouted every school in Arizona and I've never seen you pitch there.' "
That's because Scott was a junior at Yuba City High and was winning games that earned him the outstanding pitcher award three years in a row in the Delta League.
"He was always a premier pitcher," said Yuba Coach Joe Graben. "When we put Darryl on the mound, we beat everybody."
After so much success, Scott had hopes of being drafted by a major league team. His hopes were crushed.
"I talked to scouts from the Reds and the Phillies, but nothing ever happened," he said. "That's probably best because I was pretty set on going to school." He's working for a degree in psychology.
"Before, I could throw the ball past a lot of people. Now I worry because I can't throw the ball past most of the batters. I have to work a lot harder."
He recalls his first college game against Cal State Los Angeles when he took out the first two batters and the third hit a line drive off his ankle that put him out of the game.
"That had never happened to me. I was scared and felt funny till I got on the mound again."
Things went a lot better for the rookie in his next game against UCLA. He pitched three innings and received credit for the 3-2 victory.
"The more the pressure, the better he does," Perry said. "He's very competitive."
And to keep his arm in shape to be competitive in a league with some of the best collegiate pitchers in the nation, Scott's been throwing every other day, and usually in a weekend series he'll throw two consecutive days.
"I feel comfortable doing that. But I know I need to get stronger and put more velocity on the ball so I can have more command out there."
That should happen with time, according to Perry, who says Scott is just a "pup" in pitching.
"There is no such thing as a 10," Perry said, but Darryl is a 9, a solid 9. He's going to get bigger and stronger and has a chance to be an outstanding pitcher."
So Loyola will continue to feel the relief when Scott is warming up his split-finger fastballs as he prepares to take the mound. With his help, maybe the Lions will come out of their slump.
"When we have him in the bullpen, a lot of the pressure is relieved and we know he'll come out and do something good," Snow said.