The 2-1 pitch is a strike.
It’s a fastball that catches the outside corner. It ran 96 miles per hour.
Paddy McKermitt, the ninth batter in the Northern Illinois Huskies order, steps out of the right-hand batters box and takes a deep breath. He looks at his bat — almost as if to say, “What have we gotten ourselves into?”
McKermitt knows he’s out. So does the man on the mound, Sam Bachman.
McKermitt reluctantly digs back in. Bachman comes set on the rubber. From behind the plate, the umpire gives him the go-ahead.
Bachman unfurls into a violent wind-up and fires. His offering darts toward Mckermitt’s left shoulder. The Huskies’ batter flinches, but as he does the slider slides. The pitch drops harmlessly into the zone, notching the backdoor just before smacking the catcher’s glove.
It’s the ninth batter Bachman has struck out in one game. He’s faced — you guessed it — nine batters. He just struck out the side in order three straight times. No Huskie who stepped into the box stood a chance.
As mentioned earlier, Bachman knew he had McKermitt. He feels that way every time he gets to two strikes.
“That’s what I love about pitching,” Bachman said. “When you’ve got a guy down, especially 0-2, you just know it’s over for him. The confidence is unreal out there.”
This isn’t just one good outing for Bachman, a junior righty from Fishers, Indiana. He’s one of the best pitchers in college baseball.
In 20 innings pitched this year, he’s struck out 32 and given up two runs. That’s an earned run average (ERA) below one and a K/9 over 14.
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Video game numbers.
The RedHawks haven’t had a former player suit up in a Major League Baseball (MLB) game after being selected in the MLB first-year player draft since Adam Eaton was selected in the 19th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010. They've never had a first rounder. Bachman figures to change that.
According to MLB.com, he’s the 29th best prospect in this year’s MLB draft. That ranking is likely to go up; the website hasn’t updated its list since December. Baseball Prospect Journal has him going 16th overall to the hometown Cincinnati Reds in its latest mock draft.
Ironically, before coming to Miami, pro ball wasn’t even on Bachman’s radar.
“Not even close,” Bachman said when asked whether he saw himself as a future potential first round pick back in high school. “It’s kind of crazy, looking back, how school was the main priority. I just thought baseball was a way to … get my school paid for, and get a good education.”
The junior righty was lightly recruited out of high school. He had only two Division I offers.
“I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder, just because schools were always talking to me, but they never wanted to pull the trigger on offering,” Bachman said.
Miami was different.
Bachman asked his travel coach to contact someone on the RedHawks’ staff. The current microbiology major was interested in Miami for its academics. Soon after, coaches Justin Dedmon and Matt Davis (the latter is now a scout for the Boston Red Sox) attended one of Bachman’s games. Bachman performed well for them, and received an offer two weeks later.
“I’m just blessed that they took a chance on me.”
Since arriving on campus, the righty has improved massively. This isn’t the same Sam Bachman that showed up in Oxford in 2019.
Freshman year, he dropped his arm slot to get more movement on his fastball. With the new release point, he had to regain command of both the fastball and his slider.
Once he got used to the new arm angle, he learned a changeup. To be a starting pitcher in the big leagues, a third pitch is crucial. No one does it with only two. He is just now starting to get a feel for the pitch that some scouts say could eventually be his best.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, after his sophomore season was canceled, Bachman adjusted his diet, lost weight, and saw increased velocity on his fastball. This season, he has seen that work pay off. During the Northern Illinois game, Bachman registered a personal record, touching 101 mph.
According to Miami Pitching Coach Matt Passauer, Bachman’s improvement is no coincidence.
“He will outwork just about anybody,” Passauer said. “He’s very diligent about his work, and if he’s going to add something to his routine, he wants to be well researched.”
Passauer also commended Bachman’s mental toughness.
“Sam having the opportunity to be our Friday guy as a freshman has forced a lot of maturity on him,” Passauer said. “He’s been through the thick of it more than one time, so he’s gotten to learn from that experience.”
Bachman’s name is hot in MLB draft circles. But for now he has different things on his mind.
“I’m really not too focused on [the draft],” Bachman said. “The most important thing right now is getting Miami to a regional, to the College World Series, somewhere we’ve never been … When the season’s over we can talk about the draft.”
Miami baseball has only received a bid to the national tournament once — that was in 2005. They’ve never won a tournament game.
The team is currently third in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). With one of its most talented rosters in recent memory — and possibly its most talented player ever — Miami baseball has a real chance to make history this year.
To finish — a bit of free advice for any hitters reading: don’t let Sam Bachman catch you with two strikes.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated the Miami RedHawks haven't had a player selected in MLB's first-year player draft since 2010. In fact, the RedHawks haven't had a player play in the MLB after being selected in the first-year MLB player draft since 2010.