In 2018, Ricky DeVito took a leap bullpen piece to ace of the pitching staff and Big East Pitcher of the Year. Now, he is preparing himself to take an even bigger step in 2019.
With Shane McCarthy, Billy Layne Jr. and Cullen Dana no longer in the picture, DeVito is at the head of Seton Hall’s starting rotation for the first time in his career. Gone are the days of DeVito turning to his veteran counterparts for advice, as he is now the one that will be looked at as the leader of the group.
“I like it a lot because when we first come here, it’s not really your place to say much,” DeVito said. “You learn from the older guys by sitting back and not saying a word. As you get older and have a little bit of success, it gives the younger guys a reason to come to me and ask me questions. It’s nice being able to help out the younger guys because I get to help them understand some things that I didn’t understand when I first got to college and first started playing college baseball. I enjoy being able to share the things I wish I knew right away to them.”
Not only is DeVito stepping into a new role as a leader, but he and the rest of Seton Hall’s rotation will be dealing with a unique challenge this season as well. Starting pitchers are creatures of habit and since Seton Hall does not have a true home game in 2019, pregame routines will have to change as the Pirates hit the road for the duration of the season. For the younger players, an adjustment period will be necessary, but DeVito is confident that it won’t have much of an impact on his ability to get the job done on the bump.
“Home and away, it’s the same preparation pretty much,” DeVito said. “Maybe the timing is a little different, but there’s no reason to change anything. It’s always going to play on a baseball field, step on a baseball field and play a baseball game.”
DeVito will also be tasked with a new battery mate, as current Milwaukee Brewers farmhand Mike Alescio graduated in the spring. With Chris Villa taking over as Seton Hall’s starting catcher, DeVito has spent the offseason getting comfortable throwing to him. The two have had a long-standing relationship and Villa caught DeVito at times last season, making the transition a smooth one.
“I think we’re going to work well and I think it’s going to be a good year with him,” DeVito said. “It’s been pretty smooth sailing. He caught me a bunch of times last year and I’ve known him for a long time, pretty much my whole life. He already has a lot of experience catching me.”
DeVito will always be the name that people talk about when Seton Hall’s starting pitching is brought up, but the Pirates have an abundance of arms that are ready to take the conference by storm in 2019. The likes of Noah Thompson and Tyler Burnham provided glimpses of top-end stuff last season and while DeVito is at the head of it all, he is excited to see what his counterparts can accomplish this season as Seton Hall looks to get over the hump and bring a Big East title back to South Orange.
“I may be heading the staff this year, but I know we still have so many guys, even though we had so many guys leave, we have so many guys left here that are going to be really good. Overall, I think we’re going to be a really good staff together and we’re going to mesh together really well.”
As a sophomore, DeVito put together a season to remember. With a 6-3 record, 1.88 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 62.1 innings pitched, the State Island native led the Big East in ERA and finished top-10 in ERA, innings pitched, opposing batting average, wins and strikeouts in conference play. He was also named to the All-Big East first team and was a second-team All-American.
DeVito’s sophomore campaign will go down as one of the better season’s a Seton Hall starting pitcher has put together in recent memory, but he wants to take it to the next level in 2019. DeVito believes that there is still plenty for him to accomplish individually and his work offseason may have him positioned well to do so. If it all comes together, DeVito could wind up performing at a rate that puts him in the conversation of being considered one of the best pitchers in all of college baseball.
“Last year I had a pretty good year, but I think I could have a much better year this year,” DeVito said. “Statistically, the year was pretty good, but I think I could’ve been much better. This year, I think playing up in the Cape and having summer ball…being able to experiment with certain things, I think things like walking less people, having a few more strikeouts and getting ahead of hitters early, things like that are going to help me have a much better year and make things a lot easier. I’ve been able to get out of things and not give up runs during games, but I’ve made it too hard sometimes.
“This year, I’ve been able to take a step forward by being a little more consistent and not having to work through things so much. Now I can just go out there and dominate.”
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @tyler_calvaruso.