Cole Winn was the best high school pitcher in Colorado last year. This spring, he’s tackling California and maybe the whole country.
Winn was the state player of the year last year after going 9-0 with an 0.73 earned run average for Silver Creek (Longmont, Colo.). His father Randy’s business has a lot of clients in Orange County, Calif., so when his father asked him if he would like to play in Southern California his senior year, Winn jumped at the chance.
In eight starts, the 6-2, 205-pound senior right-hander is 5-2 for Orange Lutheran (Orange, Calif.). He has a 0.29 earned run average with 80 strikeouts and only eight walks in 48 innings pitched.
“I think I’ve had to raise my level a little bit,” Winn said. “Obviously, I want to show what I could do out here and prove what I did in Colorado I can do anywhere. In Colorado, every once in a while you would face a guy who would be going Division I. Out here, you face lineups of guys who are going D-I.”
Lutheran coach Eric Borba has coached his share of majors leaguers, including 2008 American Family Insurance ALL-USA pitcher Gerrit Cole, now with the Houston Astros. Borba said any worries he had of Winn fitting in quickly went away.
“We play three game series and he takes the ball in Game One every time,” Borba said. “He’s our horse and he’s our guy. There’s a little extra excitement when he pitches.”
The first batter Winn faced this season, in an exhibition game, was preseason ALL-USA Santiago (Corona) shortstop Brice Turang, whom Winn got to ground out.
Winn said his best game this season came in the Lancers’ opening game in the National High School Invitational in Cary, N.C. He allowed one hit and no runs with nine strikeouts in a 9-0 defeat of Florence, Ala. and the Lancers went on to win the tournament for the second consecutive year.
“I think that win set the tone for the whole week,” Winn said. “Just going out there and throwing strikes and letting my defense do a lot of work. I tried to eliminate walks.”
Beginning in October, Winn has been working with private pitching coach Mike Cosgrove, who was a minor league pitcher for the Twins, Astros and Rockies. Winn already had a mid-90s fastball but Cosgrove adjusted Winn’s curve and slider and made a few other tweaks.
“He’s been open to every suggestion that I’ve thrown at about his mechanics,” Cosgrove said. “Days after he starts, he feels amazing. If anything, we have to pull him back because he’s never sore. He loves to throw the baseball. He’s a really smart kid and his body awareness is unreal.”
Winn said that comes from breaking down his performances.
“I like to watch video to see what I’m doing wrong,” he said. “I know my body well enough to know what I need to do to fix it, so I can make little adjustments in my game.”
Cosgrove said Winn ocassionally needs to dial it back a bit early in the game.
“Because he’s a kid and sees a bunch of radar guns, he can get a little pumped up and lose his mechanics,” Cosgrove said. “He’s done that two or three times but he recognizes it and it goes away after the first inning.”
He’s only hitting .222, but he’s driven in 18 runs in 63 at-bats.
“I’ve always had a little bit of power,” Winn said. “Facing better pitchers out here has been an adjustment for me, but occasionally, I run into some (hits). With me, being a pitcher, hitting isn’t extremely important to me. I just go out there to have fun.”
Winn has also impressed his coaches off the field.
He lives near the Los Angeles Angels’ stadium in Anaheim and on April 22, Cosgrove’s 7-year-old son was attending one of the Angels’ Little League Days.
“All the kids are seven or eight years old and they’re playing Wiffle Ball in the parking lot and Cole and his mom and dad came and hung out with us,” Cosgrove said. “He’s a great kid.”
A couple of Saturdays ago, Winn asked Cosgrove to push back their throwing session because he had promised an OLU assistant coach’s 7-year-old daughter he would watch her play softball in Corona.
“He drove about 45 minutes to watch her play softball,” Borba said. “That’s the kind of kid he is. He puts others first. That’s been the biggest thing in his transition. Here you get a high-profile kid and all the attention’s going to be on him and you never know how a kid is going to handle that. He’s been the ultimate team-first guy.”