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Chris Bassitt possesses that unique mental makeup and overpowering arsenal that is required to be a closing pitcher in Division I college baseball.
Bassitt, a 2007 graduate of Genoa High School, has taken over as the closer for the University of Akron baseball team.
Featuring a slider, change up, and a fastball that clocks in between 90 and 95 mph, Bassitt has a solid repertoire. The junior also has that all-important confidence.
"I really try to strike out every single batter. That is my thing," Bassitt said. "I know some pitchers have that mentality to let the batter hit it for an out. But I want them to not even touch the ball."
With that combination, so far Bassitt has the best earned run average on the Zips' staff. Bassitt has a 2.81 ERA and opponents are batting just .233 off him.
Bassitt has converted on all four of his save opportunities. He has made 10 other non-save appearances and has 22 strikeouts in 16.0 innings.
Bassitt redshirted as a freshman in 2008 before becoming Akron's closer in 2009. Bassitt, who had been a starting pitcher throughout a stellar career at Genoa, said it took some time to adjust to closing out games.
"I wasn't slotted in as a closer going into Akron," Bassitt said.
But he said the coaching staff likes both his arm strength and mental resolve.
"They knew I was able to throw the ball pretty hard," Bassitt said. "As a bullpen pitcher, I don't worry about what happens the day before. The starter has to sit on it for six days before his next start. But if I throw on a Saturday, I'll be called on that Sunday. I guess I have that ability to let go of what happened the previous day, good or bad. I have that focus."
In two appearances during a series against Western Michigan, Bassitt threw 2 2/3 innings of no-hit ball.
Then on April 5, Bassitt helped Akron shutout visiting Youngstown State 5-0. Bassitt struck out the side in the ninth.
"Personally I feel I'm doing pretty well this season," Bassitt said. "I could have started the season better. But going into [Mid-American Conference] play everything is falling into place. I'm gaining confidence and doing what I need to do."
He said part of the process was learning to relax during a game instead of being stressed.
"If you're a hitter, you have to be ready two hours before a game. But as a closer you have to focus in around the fifth or sixth inning," Bassitt said. "I'll run a few sprints and get stretched out. The biggest difference is the mental aspect and not to be so serious. It can be difficult to keep that high."
As a redshirt freshman in 2009, Bassitt had a 1-2 record and a 3.52 ERA. He registered the most saves on the team with seven, ranking him second on the all-time Akron single season list.
He had 34 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings and opposing batters hit a team-low .184 against him, which ranked fifth among pitchers in the MAC.
Then as a sophomore in 2010, he appeared in just one game. He sat out the rest of the season to focus on academics. Bassitt has a double minor in mechanical engineering and business communications.
"It's difficult. I had to refocus last year," Bassitt said. "You have to budget time and understand priorities. As a student-athlete, school is important. You have to understand what you are here for."
When he was at Genoa, Bassitt was a two-sport standout. He said he always wanted to play basketball in college.
"I've always loved basketball way more than baseball. I still love basketball," he said. "But obviously baseball has really grown on me."
Bassitt earned first team All-Suburban Lakes League honors in both baseball and basketball as a senior at Genoa. The baseball team posted an overall record of 48-6 during junior and senior seasons and won back-to-back league titles.
Only one college, Ohio Northern, recruited Bassitt to play basketball. But by the time Ohio Northern offered a basketball scholarship, Bassitt was opening eyes on the diamond in the spring of 2007.
He had a 1.56 ERA as a senior. Bassitt struck out 65 batters in 58 innings. He helped the Comets finish with a 21-4 record, including a perfect 14-0 league mark.
Perhaps in what turned out to be the biggest outing of his life, Bassitt threw a one-hitter in a 5-0 win against perennial power Start that spring.
"It was a fluke thing how I got to Akron," Bassitt said. "I pitched well in a game against Start and there was a coach there from Akron. He was there just visiting friends. He wasn't scouting. That start is how I happened to get here."
With that twist of fate, Bassitt said he believes the sky is the limit for his future on the mound.
"My goal is to go to the highest level possible," he said. "I want to play until I can't play any more. Obviously everyone's dream is to play in the major leagues. You have to play for your team and for your teammates. But I'd like to impress people to get to the next level.
"You have to let your game speak for itself. If you have it, you have it."
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6354.