By Abbey Mastracco
for WCC coaches' survey results
(pictured right, photo by Brock Scott) slides onto a stool, attempting to lower his tall
frame down to my level.
feel tall,” Matusz said. At 6-5, San Diego’s junior LHP is
tall compared to most standing in the room at a recent college
baseball media event in Long Beach, Calif.
He’s dressed nice, in a button-down plaid shirt that matches his
Torero blue eyes. He’s very polite as other reporters approach
him, shaking each of their hands and looking them square in the
eye. He has an ease about him that doesn’t scream, “I love the
media.” But he shows that he’s done this a few times before.
Matusz rattles off his pitches – quite an impressive repertoire.
Coming in two years ago, he was the highest draft pick to turn
down a big league contract, opting instead to get a college
education. Back then, he was listed as an inch shorter and 30
pounds lighter and threw three solid pitches, not the five he
Absent from the event is his teammate, Josh Romanski, another
Toreros starting pitcher with an impressive résumé who somewhat
has become Matusz’s partner in crime over the past two years.
Romanski, he explains, is in class that day.
“Oh, we’re best buds,” Matusz said. “Coming in, obviously we
were the two highlighted freshmen two years ago. We played this
summer on Team USA together. We’re good friends.”
Matusz is also quick to say how much fun his buddy had while
traveling all over the South, New England, Brazil and the
Netherlands with Team USA.
“He likes to dance, he was in the clubs,” Matusz said.
Right off the bat, it’s obvious these two have had some good
times together. Now in their junior years, the pitchers have
become the face of one of the top baseball programs on the West
Coast. But can two stars exist on the same team without
competition to see which one is the biggest?
“Instantly, there was a little bit of a rivalry,” San Diego
coach Rich Hill said. “They came in together out of high school
as real highly touted guys that both turned out well over seven
figures to go to college. They’ve become good friends, but at
the same time there was almost like a sibling rivalry.”
The careers of Matusz and Romanski have followed similar paths.
Both were drafted high out of college, with Matusz going in the
fifth round by the Angels and Romanski in the 15th by
the Padres. The two became valuable starters during their
freshmen seasons and were named freshmen All-Americans. Both
blossomed in their weekend starting roles in their sophomore
seasons, again were named All-Americans and then selected to
pitch for Team USA in the summer of 2007.
Their names haven’t become synonymous, but one usually isn’t
talked about without the other being brought up.
think we push each other on the field to be the best,” Romanski
said. “If he throws well [Friday], that gives me the motivation
to pitch better [Saturday]. It’s more like a friendly
competition than anything.”
Matusz agrees they push each other on the mound every weekend.
But he denies a rivalry exists between the two.
“There’s no competition, we can’t have competition exist on a
team,” Matusz said. “We’re both different people, and we both do
our own thing. We do push each other to do better.”
Similarities aside, Matusz and Romanski have managed to
distinguish their games from one another.
Matusz is a power lefty who throws strikes. With five pitches in
his repertoire, he utilizes his changeup, cut-fastball and
curveball, throwing in the mid-90s. Known for his control,
Matusz owned a 2.85 ERA in 2007, finished 10-3 over 123 innings
and broke the Torero’s single-season strikeout record with 163.
“He’s a real eye-of-the-tiger guy,” Hill said of Matusz’s
makeup. “And Josh is really the same way.”
(pictured left, photo by Brock Scott) is a two-way player who doubles as a weekend starter on
the mound and a starting left fielder. On the mound, Romanski
gets outs with a changeup and a cutter and throws a fastball in
the high 80s to low 90s range. Known for long outings, Romanski
threw three complete games with two of them being shutouts in
’07. He went 9-1 with a 3.05 ERA over 112 innings.
a position player, Romanski owns a .315 career average. In 2007,
Romanski made 55 starts in the outfield, hit .335 with 10
doubles, two triples, three homers and eight stolen bases.
two of the best pitchers I’ve ever caught,” said Logan Gelbrich, the Toreros’ catcher and Matusz’s roommate. “I think they make everyone around them
better. They’re two hard-working guys, and that’s the kind of
people I want to work with.”
Gelbrich said their personalities fit in with the intense
competitive nature that characterizes the Toreros this season.
“Our whole team is the most competitive group of people I’ve
ever been around,” Gelbrich said. “Our intrasquads are the most
beautiful thing I’ve ever seen on a baseball diamond. We are
bitter enemies in intrasquad. We get out there, we’re kicking
the dirt, just battling.”
Matusz and Romanski have just as much praise for one another as
Gelbrich has for them. Romanski touts Matusz as one of the best
pitchers in the country, and Matusz praises Romanski’s
athleticism and ability to be a two-way player.
The pair has emerged as among the most recognizable faces in the
West Coast Conference – a conference not known for having
powerhouse sports schools. With the accomplishments of Gonzaga
basketball often overshadowing the rest of the WCC’s sports,
Matusz, and Romanski, along with Pepperdine RHP Brett Hunter
have become the new faces of the conference.
think sometimes we get overlooked in our conference,” Pepperdine
coach Steve Rodriguez said. “Everybody talks about how strong
the [Pac-10] is and the Big West is, but when you’re going to be
dealing with pitchers who are going to be coming out of the West
Coast Conference, I think it makes it that much stronger.”
All of the attention means nothing, insist the Toreros’ star
pitchers. They play on a team, and feel they deserve no more
recognition than the next person on the team. The scouts will
always be there, they say. At the end of the summer, they don’t
care where they’re shipped out because there’s only one place
they hope to be: Omaha.
“Coming into college, I had one main goal,” Matusz said. “And
that was to go to Omaha and win it.
expect nothing less than a national championship really. I feel
like we have the leadership, [and] we really have the talent to
do it this year.”