College Sports

Burgos lethal weapon for SCF

BRADENTON — One word best describes State College of Florida pitcher Alex Burgos this season — dominant.

Thirteen wins and one defeat.

His earned-run average sits at a miniscule 1.42 over 95 1/3 innings pitched.

Then there’s the power peripherals — 109 strikeouts against 29 walks and a paltry 1.12 WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched).

Dominant, right?

And he might have saved his best performances for the end of the season.

The left-handed Burgos won both state tournament starts, taking the tourney’s most outstanding pitcher award and sending the Manatees to Grand Junction, Colo., for the 2010 Juco World Series, which starts Saturday.

As head coach Tim Hill said following the state championship game against Miami-Dade College, Burgos threw a masterpiece against the Sharks.

He hurled a complete game with nine strikeouts against two walks and no earned runs as the Manatees won the title 8-1.

But before that game even started, Burgos was wired and anxious for the biggest game of the season.

So, instead of the normal routine of heading to the park after the team arrived, Burgos traveled with the rest of his teammates to Lakeland’s Joker Marchant Stadium.

While the Manatees took batting practice, Burgos watched and studied as Miami-Dade defeated Palm Beach State College in the earlier game.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Burgos said. “I woke up early, (went) on my laptop trying to kill time, and then usually, the starting pitcher goes with the trainer to the field late. But I said, ‘No, I’m going on the bus.’”

When it’s Burgos’ time to start, the Manatees feel like the New York Yankees when their closer, Mariano Rivera, enters a postseason game — it’s lights out for the opposing team’s bats.

It hasn’t always been this way for Burgos. Last season as a freshman, he was bogged down near the back end of the rotation, from which he posted a 6.31 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings.

Following SCF’s early exit from the 2009 state tournament, Burgos headed to Mankato, Minn., for summer league ball in the Northwoods League.

That summer stop added velocity to his fastball and brought two new pitches to Burgos’ arsenal — the slider and cutter.

His slider is the out pitch, but his cutter was what he said worked most effectively against Miami-Dade.

Add in his other pitches, and the sophomore’s repertoire consists of five pitches he can consistently get over the plate for strikes.

That makes it much easier on catcher Austin Chubb.

“It definitely makes my job easier,” Chubb said. “Because he can throw five pitches for strikes at pretty much any time. ... I mean, the kind of stuff he has, I think he’s got a great future ahead of him. I think he can pitch for a long time, if he stays healthy.”

The slider and cutter he learned last summer aren’t the only changes to Burgos.

His mechanics were also altered so that his front leg drifts away from home plate during his wind-up, and he shows more of his back toward the hitter.

It’s kind of reminiscent of the way former big leaguer Hideo Nomo deceived hitters with his delivery, albeit not to that extreme.

“I’ve heard kids say that everything looks like I’m throwing a fastball,” Burgos said.

The maturation from the extra work put in over the summer and fall has led him to anchor a staff that’s brought the Manatees (37-13) their first Juco World Series appearance since 2002.

He’s pitched in front of scouts in most of his starts, but he said once the game begins he’s focused on nothing but Chubb’s mitt.

And now Burgos is scheduled to take the hill for the opener against the No. 1-ranked team in the country, San Jacinto (Texas) College-North at 2 p.m. Saturday.

And like he’s done with each and every start this season, Hill said he’s not changing anything with Burgos.

The Manatees wouldn’t have it any other way.