Indiana pitcher Joey DeNato limited Louisville to four hits as the Hoosiers defeated the Cardinals, 2-0, Saturday.
OMAHA, Neb. (WDRB) – Joey DeNato grew up in San Diego following the Padres. He watched all the best pitchers come through the National League. Jake Peavy. Chris Carpenter. Tom Glavine. You know the list.
Guess which pitcher DeNato chose as his favorite?
I don't care that DeNato limited Louisville to four hits while throwing an exhaustive shutout that required 136 pitches. You couldn't pick a pitcher more unlike Randy Johnson than Joey DeNato.
Joey DeNato was DeDifference as Indiana defeated the University of Louisville, 2-0, in the College World Series Saturday night at TD Ameritrade Stadium. He stopped the Cardinals on four harmless hits. Randy Johnson couldn't have done it any better.
"In the midst of a game like that, you never think about pitch count or your arm's getting tired or not," DeNato said. "My arm felt just as good in the ninth inning as it did in the first."
Johnson threw the baseball 100 mph per hour. DeNato's fastball is absolutely blistering if he reaches 90 on the radar gun. Johnson is 6 feet 10. Indiana lists DeNato at 5-10, but if IU used the same tape measure on Cody Zeller he'd be about 7-3. With an ice pack strapped to his left shoulder after the game, DeNato looked closer to 5-8.
Johnson was a second-round pick of the Montreal Expos after he finished his career at USC. DeNato attended Torrey Pines High School in San Diego, but the California schools did not call or recruit him.
Neither did Major League Baseball. Although DeNato is a draft-eligible junior and has been Indiana's best pitcher for most of three seasons, he was not selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft last week.
Not that the MLB Draft or the speed gun or the tape measure mattered Saturday night. Louisville failed to put two guys on base in any inning. Only one Louisville runner reached third base. That was Sutton Whiting. He was thrown out at home while trying to score on a single to right field by Cole Sturgeon in the third.
"The main thing about DeNato is he competes, and he out-competed us," said Sturgeon, who had two hits. "As hard as that is to say, he made big pitches when he needed to."
"Joey works the bottom of the strike zone and he throws five different pitches for strikes," IU catcher Kyle Schwarber said. "That's just Joey at his best."
Pitch count? Many people will argue that 136 pitches is at least 26 more than any young pitcher should throw.
IU coach Tracy Smith does not agree. He did not have anybody warming up until the eighth inning. He never made a trip to the mound. He didn't consider removing DeNato, even after Louisville center fielder Adam Engel rattled a double into the left-field corner with two outs in the eighth. Smith knew that Louisville had not scored off DeNato in two games -- four innings in February and all night Saturday.
"There was no discussion," DeNato said. "He knew I wanted to stay in. And I knew I wanted to stay in."
"He handled it well," Schwarber said. "He still looked fresh out there. You can't really take a guy out if he's still feeling it."
What's next for DeNato? Who knows? He won't be available to pitch Monday night when Indiana plays its second game against Mississippi State – or when the Hoosiers play again on Wednesday. Louisville plays an elimination game against Oregon State Monday afternoon.
DeNato improved his record to 10-2. He'll probably be asked a few more times why he keeps winning even though big-league teams do not consider him a prospect.
"It's every player's dream to be drafted," DeNato said. "Next year hopefully it works out better for me."
"I don't know why they passed him up," Schwarber said. "Maybe they're worried about his size and his velocity. But Joey's real good."