Like his newfound strikeout pitch – the changeup – Occidental No. 2 starting pitcher Mitch Margolis (senior) is both quiet and effective.
But the Calabasas, Ca., native and his bread-and-butter pitch have actually been quite loud on the mound this season, as he grinds through innings and sends plenty of opposing hitters back to the dugout.
Margolis’ numbers jump off the page. After 12 appearances and nine starts, he has posted a 2.88 ERA, leads the SCIAC in strikeouts (64) and ranks second in wins (six). However, Margolis’ career has not always gone so smoothly.
Margolis bounced between relief and starting roles throughout his first three seasons at Occidental due to inconsistent performances that led to him losing his spot in the rotation to closer-turned-starter Scott Hong (senior).
Tiger head coach Luke Wetmore, pitching coach Jake Blodgett ‘12 and Margolis himself all agreed that in those three years, he had trouble making the mental adjustments necessary to get out of tough situations on the mound.
“He’d go 50, 60 pitches; get into the fourth, fifth inning,” Wetmore said. “He’d start to fatigue, and then he’d start to throw harder.”
According to Wetmore, Margolis’ overthrowing would lead to a loss of command. But this year, overcoming adversity on the mound and staying in command of his pitches has become a strength.
In his sixth start of the season at home against Rutgers-Newark, Margolis gave up two solo home runs in the second and fourth innings, respectively. However, these would go on to be the only runs scored by the Scarlet Raiders in the contest. Margolis settled down on the bump, hurling an 11-strikeout complete game and securing a 4-2 victory for the black and orange.
“I was keeping them off balance the whole game,” Margolis said. “I started getting deeper into the game and started thinking, ‘I have a chance to finish this and just kept that attack mode going.’”
Blodgett said that he was especially proud of how Margolis faced adversity in the early innings.
“He was able to come back after two solo home runs and, each time, he didn’t let it effect how he was throwing to the next batter,” Blodgett said. “It’s that small victory that stuck out in my mind.”
Margolis’ start Saturday at La Verne proved once again that he could refocus after a shaky outing. The Leopards scored one run in each of the second, third and fourth innings. But Margolis blanked them through the next four innings, allowing only one hit in that span. He earned the win after six strikeouts through eight innings of work.
Strikeouts have been a new development in the 5-foot-11 right hander’s game. In his first three seasons combined, Margolis tallied the exact same 64 punch-outs that he has racked up so far in this year alone.
And yet, Margolis said that he does not pitch with strikeouts in mind.
“I try to get in the strike zone early in the count,” Margolis said. “If they hit it and finish the at-bat in one pitch, it’s fine with me.”
Improved stamina has allowed Margolis to pitch late into games. His command of the fastball, changeup and slider have also helped him to pound the strike zone and keep hitters off balance throughout his team-high 68.2 innings on the hill this season.
Margolis said that it is the consistency of his fastball and slider that allow for his changeup to shine. According to Wetmore, a routine in practice that is the same as on game day has been key to Margolis’ success this season.
“I think there’s just a maturity about how he goes about his preparation,” Wetmore said. “It’s very consistent, and that’s led to consistent results. We use him as a model, especially for the freshmen that are coming in.”
Senior utility man Van Fudge — Margolis’ teammate and friend — said that he has always noticed Margolis’ confidence and poise on the mound.
“He has a quieter demeanor,” Fudge said. “No one thinks that Mitch is shy. He just goes about his business in a good way.”
Margolis has developed consistency in all facets of the game in his time at Occidental, but there is one more factor that has contributed to his success this season.
“This year is my last season of baseball,” Margolis said. “So I’m just thinking, ‘Give it everything you have, everyday.’”