(Photo: Blaine McCormick/WCSN)
It should go without saying that no matter the talent level or the hype surrounding any incoming college baseball freshman, adjusting to the game at the NCAA level is always a daunting challenge.
Ask anyone associated with Arizona State baseball, and they will tell you they believe that freshman left-handed starter Spencer Van Scoyoc can make the adjustment quicker than most, if he hasn’t started to already.
For Van Scoyoc, standing at 6’4″ and an even 200 pounds hailing from Cedar Rapids, IA, he saw Arizona State as the best option for him to continue to grow as a pitcher and a person in general.
“I really liked the history [of the program], and the coaches,” Van Scoyoc said. “I got to come out here and see a practice and saw how upbeat and alive everything was, that really interested me.”
Van Scoyoc made quite a name for himself during his time at Jefferson High School, including participating in the 2015 Area Code Games, being ranked as the number one player overall in his home state as well as the eighth best left-handed pitcher in the nation by Perfect Game USA, and being drafted in the 19th round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays.
For ASU assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Ben Greenspan, he and the rest of the coaching staff could tell from a very early stage in Van Scoyoc’s development that he could be successful for the program.
“We saw him for the first time the summer after his sophomore year, and then again that fall. But after seeing him twice it was pretty clear that he was a guy that we wanted in the program,” Greenspan said. “The first thing that caught my eye is I love his delivery… and without a doubt his left-handed breaking ball is as good as maybe anybody in our league.”
Despite the coaching staff seeing great things in Van Scoyoc’s future, the left-hander was expected to come into his first NCAA season ready to compete and earn playing time for himself.
“Well [the coaches] said, ‘You’re going to get your shot at whatever position you want, you just have to win it,” Van Scoyoc said.
After being named the Sunday starter to begin the season and quickly being moved into the Saturday slot after junior Ryan Hingst struggled out of the gate, Van Scoyoc has shown plenty of promise in his first month playing collegiate ball.
Through five starts Van Scoyoc holds an 0-1 record, .203 batting average against, and a 2.42 ERA. In 22 and 1/3 innings he has surrendered 15 hits while striking out 12. However, perhaps not surprisingly, the freshman has also walked 19 and hit six batters over that same workload.
ASU head coach Tracy Smith believes that Van Scoyoc’s stat line should be worse given the amount of free baserunners he’s allowed, but that it also speaks to his ability as a pitcher to be able to limit the damage against him consistently.
“His biggest nemesis so far has been his walks. So if you look at it it’s mind-boggling, it doesn’t make sense,” Smith said. “As many people as he’s walking you should have an ERA that’s in the ‘teens. The fact that his stuff is good enough to pitch around that is pretty impressive. We’d rather not have to pitch around the walks, so I think when he settles in and becomes better and better each time, which he’s going to be, it’s going to be fun to see his development.”
The experience that Van Scoyoc has gained from being in the weekend rotation from the start of the season until now is invaluable, as will be every start he makes for the rest of the year and looks toward his sophomore and junior campaigns.
According to senior catcher Zach Cerbo, the biggest obstacle standing in Van Scoyoc’s path to success will be the starting pitcher himself.
“It’s more of the learning curve of being a young pitcher in a mature environment. He does a great job when he’s relaxed, when he trusts his stuff and when he has command,” Cerbo said. “Sometimes he tries to do too much and I think that’s where he falls into a little bit of trouble. But when he just relaxes, takes a deep breath and trusts what he has, he’s unstoppable.”