Pitching his tail off
IU's DeNato delivers in longest career outing
OMAHA, Neb. -- Indiana junior left-hander Joey DeNato may not be an intimidating figure on the mound like his 6-foot-10 teammate Aaron Slegers, but there’s a reason head coach Tracy Smith put him on the hill in the program's first College World Series game against Louisville on Saturday.
And DeNato certainly proved he was worthy of the nod, tossing a complete-game 2-0 shutout as the Hoosiers won their first CWS contest. DeNato (10-2) scattered four hits and gave up just three walks, while fanning eight batters in nine innings -- his longest career outing.
“The kid pitched unbelievable,” Louisville head coach Dan McDonnell said. “He pitched his tail off.”
“It was one of the top performances I’ve ever had,” DeNato said. “I was getting ahead in the count, throwing curveball for a first strike.”
It was the first time the Cardinals had been shutout this season since they lost to Indiana 2-0 in the first game of the season. DeNato also started that game, pitching four scoreless innings.
“He competes and never gives in,” Louisville junior rightfielder Cole Sturgeon said. “He out-competed us. He won pitches when he needed to. As hard as that is to say, he won pitches when he needed to and we didn't get the big hit when we needed it.”
“I guess no matter what, I don't think we ever have to see him again, because we're in the same bracket,” McDonnell said. “So, that's the bright spot.”
While Indiana’s hard-hitting offense garners most of the attention, the pitching staff has been the driving force of the Hoosiers’ unprecedented season -- and DeNato is the leader of the group.
“All I’ve heard is about Indiana’s offense,” Indiana head coach Tracy Smith said. “Joey set the tone on the mound. At the end of the day if you’re going to win a national championship, you’re still going to do it with your pitching and your defense.”
DeNato threw a career-high 136 pitches in the outing, but he was consistent throughout the appearance and showed no signs of fatigue.
“I felt just as good in the ninth inning as it did in the first,” DeNato said. “I think getting ahead in the count and throwing my curveball first strike, first pitch, that's mostly what I was doing all night and it was working well for me. In the beginning, I think I had butterflies, nervousness. But as the game went on, I think my pitches did get sharper and I was getting ahead in the count more often.”
“When you have a tournament format such as this, it's such a grind. It was huge for us for him to come out,” Smith said. “We could save our bullpen and save the guys and be fresh. And I realize we asked a lot of him [on Saturday] his pitch count being 136, but this is the time of year I think everybody would agree you ask a little bit more of your guys.”
The native of San Diego, Calif., DeNato won several battles with Cardinal hitters as he became the first pitcher to toss a complete-game shutout in the CWS since Arizona’s Konner Wade defeated UCLA 4-0 on June 17, 2012. It is the 80th complete-game shutout by a single pitcher in CWS history.
“There were 3-2 counts in our favor and 3-2 counts in their favor,” McDonnell said. “To their credit, their guy just kept making those pitches when he had to.”
Indiana’s shutout was the first by a first-time CWS participant since 1994 when Georgia Tech topped Cal State Fullerton 2-0.
“It's a dream come true to have the honor to do that and get the win and come out here and play for Indiana. I couldn't be happier,” DeNato said.