READING, Pa. -- After getting cut from his high school baseball team as a sophomore, Kevin Becker-Menditto tried out again the next year.
Becker-Menditto could barely break a window pane with his fastball, but Walkersville (Maryland) coach Jeremy Long saw something in him and decided to keep him on the roster.
"He told me I didn't have enough [velocity] to throw over the top and be effective," Becker-Menditto recalled. "He told me to drop down. I think I throw harder underneath than I threw over the top. It's really funny."
Not for Alvernia opponents the past four seasons.
With his sidearm delivery, he's been a dominant closer for the Crusaders. He has a school-record 45 saves and needs one to tie the NCAA Division III record this week at the Mid-Atlantic Regional at Santander Stadium in York, Pennsylvania.
"If I get the record, great," Becker-Menditto said. "It would look great for the school. If I don't get it, it's not going to change the type of career I've had here. It wouldn't bother me as long as we win games."
He's been a large part of the Crusaders' success since he arrived on campus in the fall of 2011. A 6-2, 192-pound right-hander from Frederick, Maryland, Becker-Menditto has been named to the All-Commonwealth Conference first team four times and has been chosen the conference pitcher of the year twice, including this season.
He leads the nation with 14 saves this season and holds the Division III record for lowest career ERA at 1.01.
"He was a submarine guy who wasn't really attractive to Division I and II schools," Alvernia coach Yogi Lutz said. "He didn't throw super hard. Now he's sitting in the low 80s. We thought sometimes you have to have a little quirkiness in your delivery to get people out."
Becker-Menditto might look like a menacing figure on the mound with his shoulder-length hair and full beard, but there's a very good reason for his appearance.
Since his freshman year, he's been involved with Wigs for Kids, a non-profit organization that provides custom hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.
He donates his locks about once a year.
"I heard about it when I worked for a boys and girls club [in Reading]," Becker-Menditto said. "It's a way for me to give back to the community. I want to give back because people have done so much for me.
"I know it's a great cause. I just want to do what I can."His appearance as a freshman quickly raised a red flag with Lutz, who does not permit his players to have long hair. But Lutz gave Becker-Menditto a waiver when he found out why his closer grew his hair long.
"A lot of my former players ask me, 'You have a guy with long hair?' " Lutz said. "It's for a good cause. It's a pretty cool thing. He's a super individual."
He's also a super reliever with superb command. This season, he's 1-2 with a 0.37 ERA, 19 strikeouts and one walk in 24.1 innings. In his career, he's 13-6 with 96 strikeouts and a mere seven walks in 107 innings.
"When I throw, I take a little but off my velo so I have more command," Becker-Menditto said. "I hate giving away free bags. I hate walking people. If they're going to score runs off me, I want them to earn it."
Lutz installed Becker-Menditto as the Alvernia closer shortly after the Crusaders return from a trip to Florida early in the 2012 season. He's allowed just 12 earned runs in 86 career games with mostly two pitches, a fastball and slider.
"You have to have confidence if you're going to be a closer," he said. "That's something I've never really lacked. If I don't get the job done, I forget about it and move on."
Becker-Menditto will graduate later this month with a marketing degree. He said he'd like to coach when his playing career ends, but he's not ready yet.
"I'd love to keep playing for as long as I can. People told me once I got cut as a sophomore that I was never going to make the varsity. I said I'd find a way."
This article was written by Rich Scarcella from Reading Eagle, Pa. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.