Switch to pitching makes Kelich a winner at Bryant
Pete Kelich was recruited by colleges as a shortstop who had some experience as a pitcher at Jackson Memorial High School, but it took no time for him to establish himself as a top hurler not just for his team at Bryant College in Smithfield, R.I., but eventually in his conference.
Kelich recently was named the 2012 Northeast Conference Pitcher of the Year. The junior righthander was 8-3 with a 1.81 ERA as Bryant went 33-21 overall and 24- 8 in the NEC. In 94.1 innings, Kelich struck out 74 hitters, walked 26 and allowed 74 hits. He pitched four complete games, two of them shutouts.
“It was being consistent,” said Kelich, who this summer is pitching for the Newport Gulls of the New England Collegiate Baseball League in a different role as a closer. “I could tell [I would be effective] from the middle of the season. I felt my body was in much better shape than years past with the strength program we had. I was conditioned to last longer, which is why I was able to throw [a career-high] 94 innings and have no soreness in my arm.”
Kelich said he did not throw off a mound in the fall, but on a flat field. He also spent considerable time in the weight room.
As a result, Kelich said he averaged 7.2 innings per outing and was able to throw more than 100 pitches per game.
The strength and conditioning work put more bite on Kelich’s fastball and he added a cutter to his repertoire. Kelich said his slider continued to improve as his “out” pitch and he mixed in a change-up and curveball to keep hitters off-stride.
“My fastball moved a lot, so I got a lot of swinging strikes to stay ahead in the count and I was able to come in with the cutter on 1-0 counts for a strike,” he said.
Kelich was outstanding in Bryant’s NEC games, where he went 6-1 with a 1.57 ERA, highlighted by 10 strikeouts to tie his career high in a complete-game victory over Long Island University, and a three-hit shutout against Sacred Heart.
“In high school, I was primarily a short- stop, which is why I went to Bryant, to play that position there,” Kelich said. “But I did not hit as well as I wanted in the fall, so they tried me as a pitcher. I didn’t think I’d want to pitch, but now I like it a lot. It’s the route to go if I want to get to the major leagues some day. My goal is to get drafted and play professional baseball.” Kelich was an instant success on the mound in his freshman year, and it was a godsend for Bryant since the team needed to develop pitching depth as it moved up from NCAA Division II to Division I and began play in the NEC that year.
In his first season, Kelich led the conference and the New England region in victories with a 9-1 record, the fourth highest win total in school history.
He was named second team All-Conference and first team All-New England by the New England Intercollegiate Baseball Association. He played in the New England Baseball all-star game at Fenway Park in Boston that year.
In 72.1 innings, Kelich struck out 52 hitters and walked 13 in 11 starts, but realized he needed to lower his 4.23 ERA.
As a sophomore, Kelich lowered his ERA to 4.03 and again led the team in victories with a 6-3 record. He struck out 58 hitters in 71.1 innings and closed the season with a flourish, allowing just 10 runs over his final 34.1 innings.
His sophomore season included a pair of shutout victories over Mount St. Mary’s, allowing two hits, and Sacred Heart, giving up five hits.
Kelich pointed out that Bryant finished first in the NEC in his freshman and junior years, but could not be recognized as the league champion because of the NEC’s three-year transition rule.
This summer Kelich is cast in a different role, which he believes is widening his perspective.
“I like closing because it puts me in different situations when I come in and it keeps my innings down,” Kelich said. “I come in not with a clean slate and sometimes with runners [already] on [base]. I’m coming out of the bullpen and throwing strikes.”
In his first 20 innings this summer, Kelich struck out 29 hitters. He savored the opportunity to pitch against a former Jackson Memorial teammate, Bryan Soloman of Eastern Kentucky University, who is playing with a team in the league based in North Adams, Mass.