MINOOKA – Mitch Malone got the chance to grab a spot in the Minooka baseball team’s pitching rotation as a senior, and he has run with it.
After pitching 111⁄3 innings in eight appearances as a junior with a 4.32 ERA, Malone burst onto the scene during Minooka’s summer season in 2013. His 4-1 record and 0.72 ERA helped Minooka advance to the Phil Lawler Summer Classic.
This spring, Malone is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA and a 24-12 strikeout-walk ratio for the Indians. He recently committed to play baseball at Augustana College. After pitching a complete game in a win over Oswego East on Wednesday, Malone spoke to the Morris Daily Herald.
Johnson: I know you’re going to Augustana. How did the process of you choosing them come about?
Malone: Well, I mean, I started talking to them over the spring, and I went on a few visits to some other schools, but when I got there, like I just had the feeling that that was the one. I mean, I love the coaching staff, the facilities and the location, so it was an easy choice.
Johnson: I know they’ve got a program known for winning there. As someone coming from the Minooka baseball program, for which the same thing is certainly true, was that a big factor in your decision?
Malone: Yeah, definitely. I definitely wanted to go somewhere where I would have a chance to win. I mean, winning’s fun, and coming from Minooka, that’s basically what I’ve been doing.
Johnson: Are you, today, ready to jump into a college rotation and have success? If not, what needs to improve?
Malone: I mean, I think I’m ready. I hope so. I hope that’s what the coaches think. I mean, I could always get better, all three of my pitches, and now I’m continuing to work hard so that I can jump right into the rotation.
Johnson: What pitches do you throw? What’s your best pitch, and which need work, if any?
Malone: I throw a fastball, change-up and a curveball. I’d say my curveball is probably my best pitch when that’s on, but I’ve improved my change-up a lot over the offseason. I’m using that a lot more now. If I had to work on one, I’d probably try to put in a new pitch, maybe like a cutter or slider, but that’s all.
Johnson: I know it was a big summer for you and for the team. Some might say that summer doesn’t really count, but at the same time, was that pretty cool?
Malone: I mean, it was a big thing for us. It was our first time going to the summer state tournament, so we’re just looking to build on it. I mean, summer’s nothing, we’re going to try to make a run this year, so hopefully that’s an indication.
Johnson: Were you always a pitcher?
Malone: Yeah, since freshman year, I’ve been a pitcher.
Johnson: Did you ever play anywhere else or have a lot of success at another position?
Malone: Way back when, like eighth grade, I played middle infield, but then when I got to freshman year, there happens to be a great player called Neal Tyrell, and I love pitching, so I took that with strides, and that’s what I’ve done ever since and I love it.
Johnson: I know you’ve had a lot of success in the classroom, too. How do you balance academic life with the baseball team, and do you expect that to be a bigger challenge in college?
Malone: Well, I mean, any athlete would say it’s all about managing your time, I would say. When you’re playing a sport, you have to manage your time really well with your homework, and I feel like I can transfer that into college. I mean, it’s definitely going to be a lot tougher, a lot more studying, but it shouldn’t be that bad.