Eric Reyzelman needed a breaking ball.
The right hander from San Ramon, California, was confident in his fastball and changeup. The fastball sat in the mid-90s while the changeup was a strong complementary pitch. But if Reyzelman was going to get outs in the Cape Cod Baseball League, perhaps the best amateur league in the country, he was going to need that third offering.
"I try to do a really good job of listening to them first because you can figure out where their strengths and weaknesses are just by listening to them," said Steve Gruenberg, Reyzelman's pitching coach with the Harwich Mariners on the Cape. "He goes, 'Coach, to be honest, I've got a little bit of confidence in my fastball ... I think it's a good pitch. And then my changeup I feel comfortable with, but I really don't have a breaking pitch.' "
Things eventually worked out for Reyzelman, a redshirt sophomore now a key piece in the bullpen for coach Jay Johnson at LSU. But when he arrived on the Cape last July, his career wasn't pointing in the same direction as it is today.
He was without a school and in the transfer portal. Just 10 months earlier he had undergone Tommy John surgery after two subpar seasons at San Francisco, posting a 5.72 ERA in 50⅓ innings pitched.
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He had the talent. Gruenberg and coach Steve Englert knew that. It was just a matter of honing it and proving it at a high level, which for many players is the whole point of coming to the Cape.
"The first time I saw him throw (I knew) this kid was going to have some success," Englert said. "I don't know what the deal was, why his stats weren't as great as they should be as far as his talent level was concerned, but I mean he came to the Cape and proved what he's capable of doing."
Eric Reyzelman, 97-99mph ⛽️🔥
Gun Checks, PitchingNinja Hat behind home plate, K Strut...this has it all. 😀 pic.twitter.com/Tyo5EiZMdX
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Before his second start for Harwich, Reyzelman was throwing a bullpen session and fooling around with grips alongside Gruenberg. Because of his three-quarters arm slot, a curveball probably wasn't going to work. They tried to see if a cutter would make sense, but Reyzelman was throwing it too hard for it to break enough.
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But how about a slider?
"When we tried, it just felt good in his hand. And when he threw it, it was just like 'Whoa,' " Gruenberg said. "Like, this is a plus pitch and you're just learning it."
No more adjustments needed to be made. With his middle finger on the outside edge of the horseshoe lace seam on the baseball and his thumb on the opposite side, Reyzelman threw the new pitch in his second start against the Chatham Anglers to great effect, striking out seven batters and allowing just one earned run in seven innings pitched.
"It was a cool moment for him when he saw the lightbulb go off. Like, wow this is a really good pitch. And I can sue this and this will make me more dynamic on the mound," Gruenberg said.
Reyzelman finished his Cape campaign with a 2.93 ERA. He never allowed more than two earned runs in an outing and had more strikeouts (38) than innings pitched (27⅔).
His summer season hadn't even ended when he received a scholarship offer from LSU, a moment Gruenberg remembers fondly.
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"I still remember the day he showed up to the field and he's like, 'Coach, what do you think about LSU?' And I was like 'I mean, when are you going?' Gruenberg said. "He goes 'Well, I just had a conversation and I really, really think that might be the place,' and I said 'I don't think I would think twice Eric.' "
Reyzelman has maintained the same level of consistency with LSU as a reliever. In 24 appearances, Reyzelman has a 2.51 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 32⅓ innings pitched.
Englert's hope is to have Reyzelman back in Harwich this summer. But he doesn't expect to have him for long, given LSU's chances of making a run to the College World Series and how well he's pitched over the last year.
"I'm sure he's going to be looking to sign and move on to the pro ranks," Englert said.
Koki Riley covers LSU sports for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @KokiRiley.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Eric Reyzelman, LSU baseball pitcher, improved at Cape Cod League