COLLEGE BASEBALL: Melahn’s Training Paying Off For Misericordia
DALLAS — Seventy-eight and straight has a tendency to fly pretty far off the bat of a college baseball player. Ninety mph with movement can be a different story.
Misericordia closer Kyle Melahn was presented with two choices midway through his freshman year with the Cougars: either start reaching the 90-mph mark or learn how to throw sidearm.
As the Cougars prepare to host Washington & Jefferson this weekend in the NCAA Division 3 Super Regionals, Melahn is doing both, and it has paid off for the Cougars over the last two seasons.
“When he came in as a freshman, he was 78-81 (mph) straight over the top with no movement and he was having a lot of success,” said Misericordia manager Pete Egbert. “We brought him in towards the end of his freshman season and told him he could drop down and try and throw sidearm to change his arm angle and try and get some movement, or learn to throw 90 (mph). He went to work that summer and how he does both.”
At that point it was easier said than done.
Melahn, a senior from Succasunna, New Jersey, essentially had to teach himself how to throw again. Only this time, it was from a different arm slot and had him releasing the ball at a new arm angle.
“At first it was basically throwing softly, relearning how to throw,” Melahn said. “It was kind of a long process. At first I had no idea where the ball was going. Before we made the change, I was pretty much dead straight.”
When he first arrived on campus as a freshman, Melahn made it through the fall workouts without having to make the adjustments.
But once spring rolled around, he knew something had to change if he had any intentions of getting on the mound.
“In the fall, I was not always pitching against the first-team guys,” Melahn said. “In the spring I wasn’t very effective in a college setting. Obviously I needed to make a change and coach Egbert recognized it.”
The summer between his freshman and sophomore year he worked on the new delivery with his summer league team. The results didn’t begin to immediately show, but he was beginning to see some progress.
“That summer I talked to the coach (David) Gargone and coach Egbert frequently,” Melahn said. “I was learning to throw strikes in a game setting. That was the biggest challenge. I was wild at first but I could see it was going to work out if I kept working on it.”
As his confidence began to build, so did his time on the mound. Over the course of the last two years, he has added approximately 20 pounds from work in the weight room, which helped increase his velocity. And with the increase in velocity, as well as the movement on his pitches, Egbert began to develop more confidence in Melahn.
Melahn is now the all-time saves leader at Misericordia with 16 and counting. He appeared in all three games last weekend in a series sweep of Christopher Newport, which advanced the Cougars within two more wins of making a return trip to the College World Series.
But with closers being a different kind of breed, Melahn has his own routine that he has stuck with since last season.
Egbert doesn’t have a traditional bullpen where the pitchers have a designated role. Rather, Egbert will go with the best available guy. It just so happens that over the last two seasons, Melahn has been the team’s best available.
However, when Melahn was asked to work multiple innings last year, the first inning was always better than the second. So with a suggestion from Egbert, Melahn figured out a way to solve the problem.
Instead of going to the dugout between innings, he heads back out to the bullpen where he will sit by himself waiting for the next inning to start.
“Last year when coach used me for more than one inning I struggled in that second inning,” Melahn said. “We figured we would try and eliminate the dugout and try and recreate that first inning every time. It worked so I stuck with it. I will go to the bullpen between innings, throw a couple of pitches when it’s time to come back out, and I just imagine going back out there for the first inning.”
Last weekend against Christopher Newport, Melahn pitched 8.1 innings and struck out 10 and walked three while allowing five hits and one run. He picked up the win in Game 2, and was credited with the save in the series clincher.
“Last week he pitched in the first two games Friday, and when I got to the park on Saturday I was thinking he is not going to be ready,” Egbert said. “He came to me before he started to throw and told me he was live. I told him to go get loose. He came back and said he was live. He is focused. He is a guy a lot of people can learn from.”
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