RENO — When Adam Whitt was a youngster, he spent a lot of time at Peccole Park, and it was always his dream to play for the hometown Nevada Wolf Pack.
Because of a lot of hard work and a change to his throwing motion, his dream came true. Whitt has developed into arguably one of the best relievers in University of Nevada history,
Entering today’s Mountain West postseason tournament in Reno (Nevada opens Thursday), Whitt has compiled 22 career saves, two off the standard set by Rico Lagatuta. Fourteen of those saves, a Nevada record, came this year when he went 2-1 with an ERA of 1.85.
Accolades, and they are all well deserved, have poured in from all over. He was named to the watch list for National College Baseball Writers Stopper of the Year and he has also been recognized by the College Baseball Hall of Fame’s watch list for Pitcher of the Year.
“He’s good,” UNLV assistant coach Stan Stolte said. “He comes in and the game is over.”
Pretty much. Whitt struck out 46 hitters and walked just six in limiting hitters to a .241 average. Blown saves are few and far between.
After going 5-5 with seven saves a year ago, the 6-foot-3 Whitt is being used more like a true closer this year. A year ago it wasn’t uncommon to see him go three innings or more. That hasn’t been the case this year. His longest stint has been three innings.
“We have a lot more depth,” Whitt said. “Last year it was Colby (Blueberg, CHS grad) and me. Colby would come in around the sixth or seventh, and I would pitch the rest. We have so many talented guys this year. Now I go 1 or 2 or maybe longer.
“I don’t think about it (length of appearance). I’m trying to go one batter at a time. I’m definitely able to bounce back quicker, and throw on back-to-back days.”
Whitt has the bulldog mentality, and that is what coach Jay Johnson likes about him.
“He wants to pitch every game,” Johnson said. “I loved the competitiveness he showed with that statement. That’s the mindset I want. He can get both lefthanders and righthanders out. He has the ability to pitch a lot, and sidearm guys can bounce back quicker.
“When I came here, I knew his numbers. I knew he’d had some success. I didn’t really know (what we had) until three or four weeks into the season last spring. He was a huge part of our success in 2014. He’s done a great job moving the ball in and out. The most important pitch of the game is the one in front of you. I might bring him in the seventh to face the other team’s best right-handed hitter. He comes through 99 percent of the time.”
If you look closely at Whitt’s 2015 season, he’s had just two bad performances.
One was against San Diego State when he allowed three runs and five hits in 2/3 of an inning. He wasn’t tagged with the loss, however.
“San Diego State had a different approach,” Whitt said. “They stood further away from the plate and went opposite field. They didn’t try to tun and burn (pull the ball).”
Whitt was tagged with his only loss against San Jose State when he allowed a run and two hits in 1 2/3 innings.
Other than that, he has been able to shut the door when called upon.
If you saw Whitt pitch at Carson High, one wouldn’t have expected to see him pitching for Nevada, or anybody else for that matter. He was a control guy at Carson with a good curveball.
He threw in the low 80s, and that wasn’t enough to attract any attention from any NCAA schools. That didn’t deter Whitt from pursuing his dream.
Whitt walked on at Nevada, and spent his freshman season bulking up; hitting the weights with a vengeance.
“I needed to get bigger and stronger,” Whitt said. “It (redshirting) was the best thing I ever did.”
Whitt was bigger when he reported to fall practice as a redshirt freshman for then head coach Gary Powers. He was still throwing low 80s, however.
“I was getting people out in the fall, but I had no real chance (to pitch much) unless I did something,” he said. “I went down to the bullpen and started throwing like I do today (sidearm). I was able to hit spots. I’m throwing high 80s now, and I’ve even gotten up to 92 a few times this year.”
Whitt went 1-4 with a 3.76 ERA and a save in 24 appearances as a redshirt freshman. Last year in 30 outings he went 5-5 with seven saves. That caught the attention of baseball scouts.
Whitt was invited to play in the prestigious Cape Cod League last summer, and he compiled a 5-0 record with four saves and an ERA of 1.00 for the Cotuit Kettleers. His efforts earned him a spot at the mid-season all-star game.
“I’ve already talked to my coach back there, and as soon as we’re done here and I’m hoping that isn’t until the College World Series is over, I’m going back,” Whitt said. “Austin (Byler) did that last year. He came and played for a couple of weeks until he made his decision (on whether to sign or not). Every game there were 20 or 30 scouts.
“I’ll play for any team. I used to not like the Red Sox, but I went last summer and saw Fenway Park and I saw how old the stadium was and the history behind it.”
Again, doors are opening for Whitt.
Whether he signs or not is another story.
“I don’t know how it’s going to go,” Whitt said.
If signing with a pro team doesn’t happen, he said he would happily come back and close for Nevada again.
Johnson believes Whitt’s sidearm style is attractive to pros, and Whitt is going to have a chance to pitch at the next level.