On a baseball team full of experience, David Festa adds to that despite being only a sophomore. The University’s reigning Freshman Athlete of the Year is one of the pivotal starting pitchers on a team with hopes of capturing the conference crown. Already holding the role of a weekend starter, it is known Festa is one of the most important cogs of the Pirate program after an impressive first season.
“(For mentality and skill last year) he had both,” head coach Rob Sheppard said. “David is a really tough-minded young man; he really likes to compete. On top of that, he had the stuff from a pitching standpoint. He had the repertoire to be successful with his fastball and change-up which worked really well for him. Mainly, it is his ability to be gritty, to be tough-minded and to want to compete.”
From the batter’s box, Festa’s fastball and change-up have provided enough deception to hitters to make him capable of power pitching and secondary stuff pitching styles.
“I think his fastball plays well with his change-up, the pitches that he throws work really well together,” Sheppard said. “His fastball and his change-up, one of the things we call for pitchers tunneling. You want a similar release point with your fastball and changeup. He does a really good job of both. Because his change and his fastball come out of the same arm slot, it allows his change-up to be much more effective and it allows his fastball to seem a lot harder than it may be.”
Last year, that type of pitching earned Festa a 4.42 ERA in his 10 starts and 14 appearances, culminating in 58 strikeouts and an opponent batting average of .249 in 53 innings pitched. To continue to progress from the pitching rubber, Festa has worked on the fundamentals while getting into the weight room.
“David continued to work on his delivery, being a little bit more consistent with repeating his mechanics,” Sheppard said. “He definitely got bigger and stronger. I think that is one of the biggest adjustments that freshmen have, the wear and tear of a 56-game season. Last year was specifically challenging because we were on the road. You are always on a bus, always on a plane, always traveling even to your home games and that has a wear and tear on the guys from a sleeping standpoint, rest standpoint, nutrition stand- point, and over the summer and fall David benefited from size and strength that will benefit him in the long run.”
Although a 56-game campaign can take a toll, it has provided plenty of benefits moving ahead.
“This team gained a lot of ex- perience last year,” Sheppard said. “We were really young on the mound, we return everyone but one, Ricky DeVito, who was drafted. From a standpoint of having guys who are battle test- ed, experience to build off of. We have plenty of that on our pitch- ing staff and that adds to the ex- citement for this team.”
Not only is Festa improving his play on the baseball diamond, but he has also continued to demon- strate the demeanor of the pro- gram.
“He is a really good teammate, very dedicated to what he does, whether it be his workouts on the mound or the bullpen preparation for his games, whether it be in the weight room or whether it be in the classroom,” Sheppard said. “We have been really fortunate with the group of young men and we have the culture we built with the team where guy work really hard in every aspect, whether it be academics, athletics, or off the field and David is a good example of that.”
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