Senior righthander Michael Clark is the Mustangs’ go-to relief pitcher, having appeared in 19 games without any starts. He also leads Cal Poly pitchers with a 2.19 ERA and six saves. The Rohnert Park native has been named the Big West Pitcher of the week twice and College Sports Madness’s Big West Player of the Week after earning three saves in the Mustangs’ Big West Conference opener.
Mustang News: You earned three saves in the series against CSUN. What was going through your mind in those tight pressure situations?
Michael Clark: I really was not too nervous because it was similar to my sophomore year in terms of coming out of the bullpen. I am kind of used to those situations. I knew coming in that I would have to be dialed in right away and pretty much let them hit the ball weakly to our defense. The defense made some plays for me and that was huge for us.
MN: You were also named Big West Player of the Week. How does it make you feel being honored in the whole conference?
MC: It is a pretty cool honor for sure, especially as a relief pitcher. But most of it is because of [my teammates] backing me up and scoring some runs for us. I think a lot of it has to do with our team and none of it means anything unless we are winning.
MN: After starting Big West play with a 3-0 sweep, what is the energy like for the team?
MC: I think there is some confidence brewing around our team right now. With a rough start to the season, I think a lot of guys lost a little bit of confidence and lost themselves. Now that we have been playing a little bit better, everyone is getting more comfortable and more confident. I think we are all pretty excited to get conference play going. I think we are all looking forward to the challenge.
MN: You exploded onto the scene in your sophomore season after your freshman campaign. What clicked for you in between the two seasons?
MC: When I came into college, I thought it would be the same [as in high school]– that I would be able to throw fastballs past some guys. I got an awakening when I arrived here in the fall. I was pretty immature and I was not ready mentally baseball-wise, nor physically. After my freshman year, I got a kick in the butt where I knew I had to succeed that summer in order to come back. A lot of it for me was the mental side of the game and not beat myself up. The biggest thing for me was going into summer ball after my freshman season and being able to go through those scenarios that I’m going to face while I’m here.
MN: What is some of the advice you share with the players?
MC: Baseball-wise, I think the biggest thing I’ve shared is helping guys coming out of the bullpen where they were probably a starter in high school. It’s a big difference for sure. So trying to keep them calm and not getting too worked up when warming up because you never know when you’re going to get called to come in. Also, how to warm up and how to go about things as a relief pitcher.
MN: What’s your own personal goal for this season?
MC: Goal number one is to win the Big West Conference, for sure. With it being my last year … the way I’m looking at is that I’m just trying to enjoy myself because it could be my last year. I know that winning is the only thing that is really fun, so basically just trying to do anything to win.
MN: What has been your favorite moment at Cal Poly?
MC: My freshman year, the Sunday game against Santa Barbara. I remember we were going for the sweep and Josh George was in centerfield and made a diving play that basically sealed the game and saved the game for us, but he dislocated his shoulder on that play and was out for the rest of the season. I remember watching that play happen and I just kind of realized what it was going to take to put the team before yourself.
MN: Lastly, who do you up look to as a baseball player and why?
MC: Throughout my time at Cal Poly, the biggest influences have been Trent Sheldon and Slater Lee, just because my sophomore year it was just those two, myself and Austin Dondanville who were the main guys out of the bullpen. They were the ones who were in my role, teaching me things about how to be a reliever. Probably my biggest influence is my brother. When we were younger, we never had a pitching coach. We would learn grips from watching baseball and we would go out in front of our house and we would try to learn those pitches. We would throw pitches back and forth, and I think that’s really shaped me into who I am today.