Baseball wise, University of San Francisco right-hander Kyle Zimmer is the textbook definition of a workhorse.
“Oh, he’s a big stud,” USF head coach Nino Giarratano said.
Revered as one of the top college pitchers in the nation, Zimmer entered the year ranked No. 15 on the heralded Baseball America Top 100 college prospects list. Friday, the big stud substantiated the hype, notching his second consecutive complete-game shutout with a 2-0 win over UC Santa Barbara.
Burly build and fierce stuff aside, Zimmer brings a unique presence to the field. Emerging from a pregame bullpen – heaving for breath with flush cheeks and dripping sweat – he indeed embodies a thoroughbred. Once he climbs the game mound, though, he’s like a different guy. Cool and composed, Zimmer is a model of efficiency.
Of course, his strikeout numbers jump off the page. After leading the Dons staff with 89 strikeouts last season, he has already fanned 45 this year. This comes as no surprise from a fireballer that reaches 95 mph on the radar gun. Surprising, though, is that such live stuff comes in the form of an uber-control pitcher, as Zimmer has walked just six batters in 45 innings, while touting a 2-1 record with a 1.62 ERA.
“Kyle just attacks,” Giarratano said. “I think that’s where you see the consistency. If you attack all the time, you’re in a pretty good situation.”
Quite a contrast to a year ago when Zimmer was hardly a blip on the prospect radar. A year ago today, he had never gone the distance in a college game, and failed to get out of the fifth inning in a Saturday start against a scuffling University of the Pacific offense.
Soon thereafter, though, on April 9, he turned a corner. Locking up with St. Mary’s University, Zimmer notched USF’s first win in West Coast Conference play – a 1-0 victory in which Zimmer struck out a career-high 14. By season’s end, he took over as the staff’s Friday starter, and would go on to earn a May 27 win over Gonzaga, as the Dons clinched their first WCC title since 2006.
“I thought (he came into his own) last year, the way he pitched down the stretch when he won for us at Gonzaga to win the conference championship,” Giarratano said. “He pitched in the regional (playoff) against UCLA to beat them 3-0. An 11-strikeout performance kind of dictated where he would be. He had a great summer in the Cape, and now he’s here as a No. 1.”
After taking two of three from UC Santa Barbara, USF (13-13) has one more non-conference game – hosting Sacramento State Wednesday at 2 p.m. – before WCC play opens Friday against University of San Diego, with Zimmer riding a 19-inning scoreless streak.