After playing the role of both outfielder and pitcher in his first two seasons, junior Tom Dolan is largely focusing on his pitching this year.
Perhaps that was a good decision. In nine starts this season, Dolan is 4-3 with a 2.04 ERA. On top of that, he’s struck out 54 batters and walked just 13 through 61 2/3 innings. The Owls are 5-4 in games he’s started, as he frontlines a young and inexperienced pitching staff.
Whether striking out a career-high 16 batters against Dayton earlier this month, or dominating Atlantic Ten Conference rival La Salle, Dolan has been rock-solid for the Owls’ pitching staff. But despite that, it’s the strides he has made both mentally and physically that have impressed his coaches.
“I think the biggest thing with Tommy is that he’s matured much more in the way he prepares for games and the way he’s able to adapt as the game goes on,” coach Rob Valli said. “He’s just refined his stuff. He’s a much craftier pitcher. He’s much smarter and he has a plan.”
“He’s become more of a student of the game, he just understands how to use his abilities more effectively, and more efficiently, to get hitters out,” the coach continued.
It’s not like Dolan hasn’t made changes on the mound, either.
Working with first-year pitching coach Justin Gordon, Dolan has revamped his game to focus more on concentrating on location,
and having more consistency on the mound. At the same time, his mindset has improved when on the rubber, and he’s no longer always looking for the big strikeout to get him out of a jam.
“He’s realized that he doesn’t have to go out everyday and have his best fastball, his best curveball or his best changeup,” Gordon said. “He just needs to go out there everyday and trust his stuff and compete
with what he has.
“By the time I got here, he’s learned that he’s only going to have his good stuff three out of every five outings. And it’s what he does in those other two [that define him].”
Though Dolan has already won a few awards, including Big Five Pitcher of the Week and a National Player of the Week award from “Collegiate Baseball”, he said he doesn’t pay attention to the accolades. Instead, he focuses on the progression he’s made on the mound and how far he’s come since in three seasons.
“This year I have a lot more experience on the mound,” Dolan said. “You learn how to pitch better. I understand what’s going on in every count. [I’ve learned to] be a lot [wiser] about the game.
“My confidence level has always been high,” he added. “You learn more every time just watching baseball, being around the game. Every little thing has been a lot better.”
While Dolan prefers to take things day-by-day, he wants to continue playing baseball and has hopes of getting drafted into the major leagues. Valli, who originally recruited Dolan when he was coaching at Glouster County Community College, thinks his pitcher has the stuff to make it in professional baseball.
“I think he’s got a great chance to be a pro player,” Valli said. “He’s crafty enough and he continues to learn and develop, and, as he continues to do that, I think he’ll be able to get professional hitters out in the future.”
As scouts decide who to draft, much of their focus goes to a player’s performance on the field. But for Dolan, he can combine his dominant performance on the mound with what he can bring to the overall atmosphere of the team.
“He’s the epitome of confidence and he’s a great leader of this pitching staff,” said Gordon, the pitching coach. “He’s really exceeded my expectations in being a leader of this pitching staff, on and off the field.”
Todd Orodenker can be reached at