As the Saturday starter for the University of Toledo baseball team, Michael Hamann is technically not the Rockets' ace.
Not yet anyways.
Hamann, a freshman right-hander and Danbury graduate, has been the Rockets' most consistent and durable pitcher this season, despite the fact that last year at this time he was facing hitters in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference.
Hamann is second among UT's starters with a 3.45 ERA and has thrown a team-high 60 innings this season. In 10 starts, Hamann has amassed a 5-2 record and is tied with sophomore right-hander Lincoln Rassi for the most victories on the pitching staff. In addition, he's second behind junior right-hander Matt Suschak with a .256 opposing batting average.
"This is what I wanted to do," Hamann said. "I came in wanting this and [possessing] the drive and determination. I just tried to persevere through a couple points this year that were really tough. But from the mental aspect of it, you just have to push through it."
Entering this past weekend, Hamann was second in the Mid-American Conference with a 2.95 ERA but got roughed a bit in his outing at Western Michigan on Saturday.
Hamann surrendered five runs on nine hits in five innings, but the Rockets (27-17, 13-5 MAC) picked him up by outscoring the Broncos 15-7 en route to earning a three-game series sweep.
"He's been outstanding all year long," UT coach Cory Mee said. "The great thing about Mike is he has a great presence on the mound. He's very poised for any age, let alone a freshman."
The Cleveland Indians also saw enough of Hamann to draft him in the 24th round of Major League Baseball's amateur draft last summer.
After sitting down with his family and Indians scout and former UT standout Junie Melendez, Hamann opted to honor his commitment to Toledo and put off his professional career - for now.
"The Indians were really understanding of my choice," Hamann said. "They fully supported it. I just felt coming to college and being around the coaching staff here, it would really help me out in the long run."
With so much early success in his college career, it's safe to say Hamann has only further increased his draft stock for when he's eligible to be drafted again after his junior season at UT.
He's also opened the eyes of his teammates.
"That's big time to come in as a freshman and do what he's doing," said Suschak, UT's ace. "It's real impressive for him to pitch the way he has, throw as many innings as he does, and get the job done like that. He's really fulfilled all the expectations that we all had hearing about him coming in. We can't be any happier with how he's been throwing."
As for his own goals and expectations before the season, Hamann didn't feel the need to limit himself despite his age.
"My hope was to get a weekend role right away," Hamann said. "I understand it's tough to come in here and do that and I'd have to earn my spot, but I was willing to do that. I think the coaches saw that I was making the extra effort and have made strides throughout the year to improve myself on the mound, both mentally and physically."
After taking some lumps during the fall exhibition season, Hamann has settled into his role near the top of UT's rotation.
Going forward, any coach would be giddy to have Hamann's services for two more years after this one, and Mee is no exception.
"More than anything else, Mike is a great kid," Mee said. "You always want to see good things happen to people like that. I think he's going to continue to be a heck of a pitcher for us. If he continues on the path he is now, he'll have an opportunity to pitch after college too. For him, the sky's the limit."
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