The best thing about Lou DiStasio as a pitcher is not his fastball, though the lively, low-90 mph heater is good.
Nor is it his strong and athletic 6-foot-3 frame.
Maybe it’s his newly enhanced breaking pitch that has keyed 16 innings without an earned run, a stretch that included Atlantic-10 Pitcher of the Week honors for the University of Rhode Island sophomore right-hander.
Nope, the best thing about the Yarmouth resident and 2012 Cheverus High grad isn’t what he already possesses. It’s that he still has so much to learn, according to URI Coach Jim Foster.
Foster knew DiStasio’s baseball skills had not been buffed to a high gloss by hours of instruction and AAU-style tournaments.
“Honestly, from a coach’s point of view, sure the kids are training year-round, they’re playing more games and they have fancier gear, but they’re becoming robots on the field,” Foster said. “Lou was a kid who played (American) Legion and three sports, the way it should be done in my opinion. Those are the kids that you can get who can really turn into something.”
Especially when they’re willing to learn like DiStasio.
“I learn something new in the sport from Coach every day,” DiStasio said in a telephone interview.
For DiStasio, baseball was an April to August sport. Then came football followed by basketball. Even within the sports he was multi-faceted. He started playing football as a kicker his junior year and ended up playing wide receiver, cornerback and returning punts. In basketball he was primarily a shooting guard.
“But I ended up playing every position,” he said.
“And for baseball, I started at shortstop as a freshman and probably did more of that, playing the field, hitting, running the bases than I ever did pitch in high school,” DiStasio said. “Now it’s nice in a way to have one thing to focus on because I can put more energy and focus into it.”
DiStasio earned Pitcher of the Week honors after his one-hit, complete-game, 10-strikeout 2-0 win against Fordham in early April. His next outing was also impressive, if less successful. In seven innings against Dayton, DiStasio allowed one unearned run in a 1-0 loss.
Over the past 16 innings he held opponents to a .104 batting average, allowing five hits.
“Lou’s always had a nice fastball that moves and a pretty good change-up,” Foster said. “Now he’s got a much better feel with his breaking ball. Now the hitters have to respect two pitches, and possibly a third, and can’t just sit on his fastball. He’s becoming a pitcher with some polish.”
The breaking pitch – what DiStasio calls a slurve – was an example of the learning process.
Earlier this season he couldn’t get the pitch over the plate with any consistency. Consequently teams were sitting on his fastball and games like a four-run loss at Northeastern where he lasted just 12/3-innings.
“We changed my grip and my release point. Just that one little slight adjustment and letting it go more,” DiStasio said. “Coach made the adjustment when we were throwing a bullpen and the third one I threw I just felt it. It came out of my hand real nice and we just knew.”
Overall DiStasio (2-2, 3.35 ERA, 32 strikeouts in 43 innings) has been one of the few bright spots for the Rams. After winning at least 30 games in six straight seasons under ninth-year coach Foster, Rhode Island is 6-25 overall, 2-8 in the Atlantic-10, and will need a surge over its final nine conference games just to make the seven-team conference tournament.
“We definitely have our work cut out for us,” DiStasio said. “We just have to grind these next three, four weeks.”
DiStasio will play this summer for the Chatham Anglers of the Cape Cod Baseball League. Considering one in every seven major league players in 2013 were Cape Cod alums, it’s an opportunity for DiStasio to enhance his chances of playing professionally.
“That’s always a dream. I’ve been dreaming about playing at a higher level every year,” DiStasio said. “In high school that came true when I got a scholarship to play (at Rhode Island), but you can’t look too far ahead. You have to keep working.”
JOINING DISTASIO on the URI starting staff is redshirt freshman Ben Wessel of Scarborough. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder, who has diabetes, suffered an arm injury as a senior in high school and spent his first year at Rhode Island recovering. This year he is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 26 innings after Wednesday’s six-inning, six-hit no-decision in a 5-4 loss at Stony Brook. It was Wessel’s third career start and longest outing.
“Between the arm injury and managing his diabetes, it’s been a little bit of a slow start for him,” Foster said. “He’s getting his opportunities.”
JOE CRONIN of Scarborough, a sophomore, is in his second season as a starting infielder for Boston College (11-24, 3-15 in the Atlantic Coast Conference). After making 33 of his 44 starts at shortstop as a freshman, Cronin is now the regular second baseman and hitting .262 (second on the team) with a .352 OBP (also second) with seven doubles and 13 RBI in 34 games.
Maine’s 2012 Gatorade Player of the Year Luke Fernandes of Eliot (Marshwood) has made 13 relief appearances for BC. A redshirt freshman, Fernandes has a 2.66 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 232/3 innings and picked up his second win last weekend with two scoreless innings in a 4-1 11-inning decision against Notre Dame. Opponents are hitting .198 against Fernandes.
MAINE WON three one-run games at UMass-Lowell last weekend with local products freshman Jeff Gelinas of Saco (Thornton Academy) and junior Scott Heath of Westbrook combining on a 2-1 four-hitter in the finale. Gelinas (2.79 ERA) went six innings, allowing one run on three hits to improve to 2-2. Heath (2-2, 5.01 ERA) slammed the door, allowing one hit and striking out four for the three-inning save. It was the first relief appearance for Heath, who is also second on the team with a .346 batting average.
Portland’s Sam Balzano (Deering) is the Black Bears’ regular center fielder. The junior has played error-free ball and is hitting .290.
BENTLEY UNIVERSITY sophomore Malcolm Oliver of Damariscotta (Lincoln Academy) led the Falcons to fourth place among 14 teams at the Mike Bello Invitational. Oliver finished tied for seventh with a two-round 74-79-153 total in the final regular-season match.
NORWICH UNIVERSITY senior midfielder Grace Fitzpatrick of Falmouth (Cheverus) became the first Cadet to record 200 career draw controls in Saturday’s 14-7 win against St. Joseph’s (Conn.). Fitzpatrick also leads Norwich (6-4) in goals (29), points (35) and draw controls (32). She was a GNAC All-Conference first-team pick as a junior.
ST. MICHAEL’S junior Kate Boyer of Standish (Bonny Eagle) was named to the Northeast-10 Honor Roll this week after scoring seven goals with seven draw controls and three ground balls as the Purple Knights (6-4, 4-4) went 1-2. Boyer leads the team with 20 goals.
Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or at: