Most of his perfect game is a vague memory to Joe DeMers, but not his 84th pitch.
DeMers, a junior right-hander, was on the mound for the University of Washington in his second start of the year on Feb. 24, facing UC Riverside hitter Anthony LePre for the final out.
“I was hoping to just have a quick at-bat,” DeMers said. “I threw a first pitch slider and he popped it up to right.”
DeMers was a 2015 first-team American Family Insurance ALL-USA pitcher his senior year at College Park (Pleasant Hill, Calif.), in the East Bay area. That year, he led the Falcons to a North Coast Section championship, going 13-1 with a 0.51 ERA and three no-hitters through 96 innings pitched and hitting .447 with 44 RBI and six homers through 110 at-bats.
He wasn’t drafted that June, but he had told pro baseball scouts that he intended on following through on his commitment to Washington.
“I was shocked to be honest with you,” Washington baseball coach Lindsay Meggs said. “The draft is funny that way. He told the scouting committee that he was adamant about coming to school. We were very excited about that, but many teams will still spend a pick on somebody like that.”
His freshman year, DeMers went 3-5 with a 6.91 ERA.
“There were a couple of things that factored into that,” Meggs said. “Joe had logged so many innings by the time he got here, I think he had a little bit of a dead arm. Then there was the fact hat he was so reliant on his fastball before he got here. He was a power arm with reasonable command. That’s why he was so successful. But he had lost a little (velocity) and he got knocked around.”
Somewhere during that season, he became more of a pitcher than a thrower. Last year, he was 6-3 with a 3.35 ERA. This season, he’s 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA and has struck out 53 batters in 64.2 innings with only 11 walks and no errors and has been named to USA Baseball’s Midseason Golden Spikes Watch List.
“(Freshman) year has taught me a lot,” DeMers said. “I had never failed on the ball field up until then. It taught me how to compete and get better every day. When I first got here, I tried to overpower hitters, but now I try to mess with their minds. The main thing was competing at a whole new level. (Pitching coach Jason Kelly) has taught me a lot, everything from pitch selection to deception.”
DeMers has a mid-90s fastball and he’s consistently been able to throw his off-speed pitches for strikes.
“He’s got a four-seamer (fastball) that averages 91 to 94 (mph),” Meggs said. “Plus, he’s got a sinker that runs 89 to 91 that people pound into the ground. He knows how to pitch backward in that he never gives in, even on leveraged counts (when’s he’s behind in the count). The hitters never get a ball that looks like a mistake.”
Most of his starts this season have been on Saturdays, the middle of the Huskies’ typical three-game series against Pac-12 opponents.
“We use him on Saturdays because it’s the swing game,” Meggs said. “If you win on Friday and then on Saturday, you win the series. If you lose on Friday and win on Saturday, you can’t be swept. For us, I like the way our team performs when he’s on the field. Our guys feel like he’s going to win, even if he doesn’t have his best stuff.”
DeMers is listed as 6-2 and 230 pounds. He may be closer to 6-foot and 230, and while he may not look like an elite athlete, he was a starter for a couple of seasons on College Park’s basketball team.
“You’re going to look at him and not see the 6-5, 225-pound frame that most people want to see,” Meggs said. “There’s the temptation to tighten him up physically, but if he stays with what got him here, he’ll get outs at any level.”
He’ll be eligible for this year’s major league draft, but that’s not what DeMers is focused on, he said.
“I’ve loved my time here at Washington,” he said. “I recommend it to all high school guys. It’s been a blast playing great competition, making great friends and memories that will last forever.”