The most important thing for Jake Meloche is to pitch. It doesn’t really matter where.
The exposure he would have received at Cal State Fullerton, where he began his college baseball career last fall, isn’t worth as much to Meloche as the opportunity he’d get to stand out somewhere else.
Meloche showed Sunday that he had the ability to be a top-of-the rotation starter. The Clarinda left-hander shut down Valley Center for seven innings, leading the A’s to a 5-0 win in a National Baseball Congress World Series winners bracket game at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
In helping Clarinda move to 2-0 in Championship Week, Meloche allowed three hits with four strikeouts, holding Valley Center scoreless. Emporia State infielder Dean Long, a transfer from Kansas City (Kan.) Community College, had three hits and three RBIs for the A’s.
“I had a good (summer) Meloche said. “Pounded the strike zone, that’s our philosophy as a pitching staff. I hit my spots. I don’t light up the radar gun, but I throw my curveball for and changeup for a strike, and I have a great defense behind me.”
Meloche started the spring, and his college career, at Fullerton, where he projected to be an important part of one of the nation’s best pitching staff. Instead, Meloche had a redshirt season while another freshman, Justin Garza earned several Big West Conference and national accolades.
The Titans climbed into the nation’s top five and finished with a 51-10 record, but with such a deep pitching staff it wasn’t certain Meloche could fit in. He transferred to Cal State Bernardino, which had a 20-28 record this season and doesn’t possess the national prominence of Fullerton.
That doesn’t matter much to Meloche, whose only criterion for a college team is how it can help him play professionally. A strong summer may slot him as a weekend starter at Bernardino.
“It was pretty tough because at Fullerton we were fifth in the country this year,” Meloche said. “I had a heart to heart with the pitching coach, the head coach and the recruiting coordinator. They said, ‘Jake, you’re a hard worker, but we’ve got guys coming who throw 95 (mph).’ They said it would be minimal innings, and I want to play.
“To try to get better and go to the next level, you have to play. You can’t sit the bench.”
Sunday, Meloche overcame a minor control issue in the first, when he walked two batters, to settle in and dominate. Two of Valley Center’s three hits didn’t leave the infield, and no Diamond Dawg reached third base.
Gadi Baez had three hits for Valley Center, including one after Meloche left, but he only reached second once — on an error — and wasn’t ignite the offense in a way his superior speed suggests he could.
Clarinda scored its first two runs with help, getting a first-inning run with the aid of a balk and notching an unearned run in the fourth after an error moved Keith Cormier from first base to third.
“When you know that runs are going to be tough to come by … the balk takes us out of the double play,” Valley Center coach Pat Hon said. “But again, we’ve got to score runs.”
The A’s broke it open with a three-run sixth. They had two infield singles, but Long provided the highlight with a two-run double to the right field.
With Meloche pitching, those weren’t the decisive runs, but a display of the balance the A’s boast. They’ve outscored opponents 13-1 through two games.
“Every time Jake is on the mound I tell him it’s going to take an army to beat him,” Long said. “You know what Jake’s going to give you. He’s going to give you his all, and it’s hard to score a run off of Jake.”