Does Marietta have another Division III championship season in it? It does if Austin Blaski has a say in it. The 6-4 senior right hander from Pandora, Ohio is a star in the making for the Pioneers. He has appeared in six games and started four games this season and carries a 0.28 earned run average along with 3-1 record and a save.
Blaski’s opponents are batting a measly .165 against the lanky right-hander and he rung up 38 strikeouts so far this season. His performance is one reason the Pioneers are off to a 12-3 and have the No. 1 ranking in Division III.
“I’m just out there throwing,” Blaski said. “We’ve got most of our defensive guys [returning this season] out there, and that helped a lot with making plays. I’m just going out pitching and relying on them.”
Marietta graduated four starters from last year’s team.
Despite a solid prep career, Blaski wasn’t highly recruited. He hit a slump his freshman year going 1-0 with a 6.89 ERA. Then something clicked his sophomore season as his collegiate career took off.
In 19 games, he went 9-4 with a 3.18 ERA and 80 strikeouts — tops in the Ohio Athletic Conference. That season earned him a turn on the mound in the 2010 World Series. There would be no fairy tale ending as the season ended with a loss.
Personally, Blaski’s season was a triumph. He went 12-2 with a 1.62 ERA and was selected Co-Kent Tekulve OAC Pitcher of the Year. He also was a First Team All-American Baseball Coaches Association Mideast Region selection.
The awards were a reminder that the season ended with a loss and four of teammates ended their careers without a title.
“I knew after that game, I didn’t want to have that feeling again of losing the season,” Blaski said. “You’re on the mound, so you’ve got to take most of the blame. It was tough. I mean, you’re on the mound ending the season of the seniors.
“Last year in the national championship game, we had four seniors again that could have been their last game. And it could have been a loss, and we would have never had that national championship. It was nice to be able to go out there and actually get the win.”
He pitched six strong innings, allowing a run on two hits and striking out four to lead the Pioneers to an 18-5 win against Chapman and cap a 47-4 season. He was also named Most Outstanding Player for the World Series.
“All I was thinking about was us needing one win in the final day to win it all,” Blaski said. “But [because of a loss in the first game] we needed to win that second game, or the whole season goes down the drain.
“That’s pressure, but I think I really embraced it. Not many people get a chance like that to lead your team to a national championship. I thought it was really cool being the guy on the mound.”
Blaski looks back on the two season of marked improvement and traces the place where he started his rise — in the Marietta weight room. His workouts took him from 170 pounds to where he is now at 205.
“I think it was coming here [to Marietta] and doing the weight training,” said Blaski. “I gained a lot of weight.That really helped me with my pitching. I think just getting bigger and stronger helped with my velocity, my mechanics and everything overall. It’s paid off for me and I want to keep getting better.”
Given his start, clearly he has which spells trouble for the rest of Division III baseball. Marietta entered the season with a pitching staff that had the best ERA (1.74) in all of Division III. This year, Blaski is among the nine of 13 hurlers who pitched last season.
“I am motivated,” said Blaski. “I worked hard in offseason after we won the national championship, to try to get back and do it again. After winning it all last year, there’s no other goal than doing it again this year.
“It is exciting for us. We’ve got most of our team back. I think that’s the reason I think we’ll get back to the World Series. If we get there, we’ll see what happens from there.”