Archbishop Spalding junior Paul DeVito has grown in more ways than one this past year.
It's evident in his physical appearance, as he has gone from 160 pounds to 182, but it's even more noticeable in his pitching.
He's not trying to strike out everyone and he's throwing first-pitch strikes. He also isn't carrying his frustrations as a hitter to the mound.
Last year, he might have been the area's best pitcher to have a 4-5 record. This year, he is simply one of the area's best pitchers.
DeVito's 3-1 record through last week has helped the Cavaliers get off to an 11-2 start and earn the No. 1 ranking in The Sun.
Among the left-hander's wins is a no-hitter. DeVito, 6 feet 2, has struck out 28 in 26 innings, walked eight and given up just 11 hits. His ERA is 1.50, down from last season's 3.32.
"I tried to strike everybody out and didn't throw enough strikes," DeVito said about a sophomore season in which he pitched in a number of big games. "They were games I wanted to pitch as tough as they were, but I was too inconsistent with my pitches."
He learned, however. During the summer, DeVito started his new approach, as he went to the Junior Olympics in Florida and went 2-0.
In August, DeVito sparkled at the Mid-Atlantic Classic at the University of Maryland and took "Top Prospect" honors for the North team. The word was out on his progress and the Association of State Baseball Coaches named him preseason All-State.
"Paul is lighting up the strike zone this year," said Spalding coach Steve Miller, a former minor league shortstop. "He now understands the importance of first-pitch strikes. I think last year, he tried to do too much, but he learned from it. He's really matured."
DeVito has become the ace of a superb all-junior staff, which includes right-handers Jason Patten (3-1) and Scott Arndt (3-0).
"Our pitching is going to win us a lot of games this year," said DeVito, whose pitching idol is Barry Zito of the San Francisco Giants. "We all compete against each other, but pull for each other. I think our pitching gives us an edge in the MIAA A Conference race and is the reason for our fast start."
The Cavaliers recently showcased their pitching talent against some tough competition. In a 6-5 win at then-No. 6 Mount St. Joseph, Patten got the victory. Also that week, DeVito no-hit DeMatha, and after that, he two-hit then-No. 5 Eastern Tech.
"They've got great pitching over there," Mount St. Joseph coach Dave Norton said.
DeVito's only loss came last Thursday at St. Paul's on a second-inning squeeze bunt that led to the only run in the game.
"I thought he was outstanding, far superior than he was a year ago," St. Paul's coach Paul Bernstorf said.
"He located the ball down with good movement really well the entire game. He was 86 [mph] consistently, never wavered, and changed speeds pretty well and moved the ball in and out. He was dominant, and I was very impressed."
Bernstorf and the rest of the league are seeing a bigger, stronger DeVito, who bulked up in the offseason by working out at Athletic Performance Inc. in Millersville.
"The added weight has really helped Paul in velocity [85-86 mph] on his fastball and his stamina over the course of a game," Miller said. "Paul is a competitor, too, and has the athletic bloodlines from his father [also named Paul], who played basketball at DeMatha and Jacksonville."
When DeVito isn't pitching, Miller plays him in center field, where he is a standout defensively. He still is developing as a hitter, however.
DeVito is hitting about .200, which is about where he was last year. The difference is, when he strikes out or pops up, he doesn't dwell on it.
"I've tried hard not to take my batting to the mound with me, but sometimes it is hard," DeVito said. "My pitching coach, Jimmy Jackson, has been so much help to me, constantly reminding me to forget about the at-bat. And he keeps telling me about that first pitch and staying back before I deliver and not fly open. He has been so much help."firstname.lastname@example.org