GRCC transfer set for role as GVSU starter
The acquisition of an offseason power arm was paramount for the No. 11 Grand Valley State University baseball team, and coach Jamie Detillion found one just a few minutes down Lake Michigan Drive.
Aaron Jensen, a 6-foot-6 right-hander with a mitt-breaking fastball, transferred from Grand Rapids Community College after the 2013 season and has since hurled his way into the rotation as one of the team’s most trusted starters.
Jensen’s height and release point combine to create a fastball with the capacity to cause fits in the batter’s box. Opponents simply don’t have time to react.
“The liveliness produces chaos for hitters with the velocity he has,” Detillion said. “The downward pitching makes it tough for hitters to see.”
It’s not just junior-college heat, either.
The Big Rapids High School product, who was tabbed as a Collegiate Baseball Newspaper “Newcomer to Watch” in the preseason, can sling it in the low-90s.
“He’s tall and lengthy so it really allows him to cut down on the distance to the plate,” senior first baseman Giancarlo Brugnoni said. “He throws hard from a shorter distance.”
Brugnoni said he was pleasantly surprised when he struggled against his new teammate in the cages shortly after Jensen’s arrival.
That’s high praise coming from the all-time Laker home-run leader, who has already belted four bombs in 12 games to go with his .412 batting average and .882 slugging percentage.
“It always comes down to pitching,” Brugnoni said of the team’s ability to make a postseason run.
GVSU (8-4) and its explosive offense don’t necessarily need a star to emerge on the mound in 2014 but, after a handful of top pitchers graduated, do need an experienced out-getter.
Jensen has been able to make the adjustment.
In three starts this season, he has posted a 2-1 record with a 2.89 ERA in 18.2 innings of work. He has 12 strikeouts and just eight walks.
“You might try to jump on his fastball, but he’ll come at you with a slider,” Brugnoni said. “He’s attacking the zone — it’s not like he’s walking people — and he’s making the defense get the out instead of trying to strike everyone out.”
Jensen said he has been throwing mostly fastballs, but a breaking ball and improved curve ball could be used with more frequency if teams start to adapt.
He’d rather keep it simple in the meantime with the downward-pointed heater.
“Really it’s just about pounding the strike zone, forcing hitters to adjust and not giving up any easy walks,” he said. “I like to trust it and know that I have control of what I’m doing out there. I won’t use my other stuff until I start getting hit well with that pitch. I don’t need to rely on any other ones.”
The former Raider turned Laker certainly appears to have the confidence to be a top-three ace for Detillion’s staff.
Returning starter and 2013 GLIAC Freshman of the Year Patrick Kelly (0-2) and junior transfer Evan Nietfeldt (3-0) — who has been lights out in each of his first three starts — round out the likely work horses on the mound this season.
If they can find ways to manufacture outs consistently, Brugnoni and the boys will take care of the rest.
The Lakers will return to action this weekend for three games at the Trevecca Baseball Classic in Nashville, Tenn.