In the somewhat whirlwind span of nine days, South Pasadena High graduate Keaton Leach found time for solicitous phone calls and trips to Oregon and Fresno all while pitching for the Glendale Angelenos summer collegiate baseball team.
The end result of a frantic recruiting push came Sunday evening when Leach verbally committed to Fresno State with plans to officially sign with the reigning seven-time Western Athletic Conference champion Bulldogs on Friday afternoon at South Pasadena High.
“I was really surprised they offered. I was expecting to go the junior college route and join Chris Cicuto at Glendale College,” Leach said. “After I took my official visit up to Fresno State (on June 26), I was impressed with their program and how much pride they took on their academics. It seemed like the right fit.”
The 6-foot-3, 170-pound pitcher chose Fresno State over Oregon shortly after concluding a three-day recruiting visit to Eugene, Ore. on Sunday afternoon.
“There were two main reasons I selected Fresno over Oregon. The first is that Oregon was only offering 30% tuition, which means I still would have to pay a lot of out-of-state costs,” Leach said. “Fresno State gave me a full scholarship with room and board.
“The second reason was the size of the rosters. Oregon’s size is at 35 players, while Fresno State is at about 25. I like my chances playing more at Fresno State.”
Leach credited his participation with the Angelenos this summer as vital to garnering attention, which began with a phone call from Fresno State on June 22.
“They had scouts in the stands and I started to get some calls a couple of weeks ago,” Leach said. “I have to thank [Angelenos Coach] Tony Riviera for that and for his help with the mental aspect of baseball. It’s meant a lot to me.”
Riviera said 20 years of scouting experience have given him an understanding of what catches a scout’s eye.
“Keaton is a really special pitcher with a tremendous upside,” Riviera said. “I look at him and see a young Tom Seaver-type pitcher that’s going to be an impact arm at any level and at any situation.”
Leach thanked Chevrier and Riviera with helping the one-time St. Francis transfer in understanding the mental aspect of the game.
He was also grateful to South Pasadena pitching Coach Keven Kempton for working on his cutter and change-up and for instituting a training regiment that saw Leach’s fastball increase from 85 miles per hour in the summer to 90-91 during the season.
Leach, an All-Rio Hondo League second-teamer, concluded a somewhat difficult senior season with a deceiving 3-6 record and a 3.05 earned-run average with 55 strikeouts over 57 1/3 innings.
“Keaton is an exceptional pitcher who was unfortunately victimized by poor defense and a lack of offense at times,” South Pasadena Coach Anthony Chevrier said. “What Keaton did best all season was keep his poise. I don’t think he was rattled all year.”
Leach described his senior season, one in which South Pasadena finished 8-17 overall and did not make the postseason, as both “challenging” and “humbling.”
“I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder because I thought I should have had a better record,” Leach said. “But I also understood that this was a learning experience and I had to do the best I could.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun