“Whatever matters to you, do it right.”
That’s the motto Cal Poly starting pitcher Mason Radeke has lived by every day.
For him, what has always mattered is pitching for Cal Poly. He has been doing it more than just right, becoming one of the most successful Cal Poly pitchers in years.
This season alone, Radeke leads the Big West with eight wins, is second with 88 strike outs and first with 38 strikeouts looking. He has held opponents to a .232 batting average, with a 2.67 ERA, while pitching a total 87 2/3 innings on the season.
Head coach Larry Lee said Radeke has become invaluable to the team. The players find success with him on the mound.
“He’s been real good for us all year,” Lee said. “He gives us a chance to win every Friday against the other teams’ best pitcher. Our players play well behind him and our Fridays have been some of our better games in all aspects, all season long.”
Radeke considers himself a perfectionist, something he said he learned from his father ever since he was handed his first bat and ball.
“My dad always tried to do everything right,” Radeke said. “He was a perfectionist to the extreme. That kind of became a part of me. In baseball I want to do everything right.”
Once he finished playing through his T-Ball and coach-pitch leagues, Radeke started pitching at the age of nine and never looked back. There was no other sport, or position in baseball, that hooked him as much as when he first took the mound.
“I just always loved it,” Radeke said. “It was my favorite sport and I always looked forward to playing every spring. There was something about it. It’s hard to explain.”
A Santa Barbara native, Radeke’s pursuit of baseball eventually led him to Santa Barbara High School’s baseball team.
In his senior season, Radeke appeared in 15 straight victories for the Dons, earning 11 wins and four saves in the stretch. That year he finished with a 12-2 record, 1.49 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 89 innings en route to a second consecutive Channel League title and a First-Team All-CIF Southern Section selection.
But the transition from the Dons to the Mustangs was difficult for Radeke in more ways than one.
Radeke said he had to work on developing his off-speed pitches and not rely on his signature fastball to strike batters out.
“My freshman year, I just really didn’t have another pitch to go to,” Radeke said. “It was kind of frustrating because I struck out so many guys my senior year, but (at Cal Poly) I wasn’t really able to do it. I knew I could. I just didn’t really have the stuff to do it.”
At the time Radeke had also been feeling some friction between him and some of the older teammates when he came in as a freshman and earned the Sunday starting role.
But Radeke said tensions eased when he started producing results on the mound, while also remaining humble.
“I was able to prove that I’m not some kid talking trash,” Radeke said. “A lot of the guys that were older than me had been on the team awhile, but once I was able to prove myself, and back it up with results, I got a lot more friendly vibes from the other guys.”
Despite posting a 5.31 ERA his freshman year, Radeke still earned a 6-2 record behind an explosive Cal Poly batting lineup.
But Radeke would have new struggles to contend with at the start of each season.
After a successful start to his sophomore season, with a 3-1 record and striking out 23 in 24 1/3 innings, Radeke’s season was abruptly brought to an end with an elbow injury.
Since he was unable to play for four months and returned to a Cal Poly team that lost a lot of its hitting power, there was uncertainty whether Radeke would find success on the mound again.
Lee said he didn’t know what to expect from Radeke at the start of the season, but knew after his first few starts he was better than before.
“There’s always a question if he’ll be as good as he was and we didn’t push it,” Lee said. “You’re always hoping that for certain results but you’re never quite sure. But it became evident within the first couple starts that he was back to himself and had developed his off-speed pitches, especially his change-up, to become a quality pitch.”
Radeke said he used his time off from the team to work on his own and spend extra time on the side thinking about what he was doing wrong and how he could fix it.
“I was really able to increase my strikeouts because I could show them different pitches and throw them off on strikes,” Radeke said. “This year I worked really hard on getting my fourth pitch, my curveball, working. Now I think that’s my best off-speed pitch.”
Radeke has earned only one loss since Feb. 26 against Oklahoma State. He threw his first career complete game against Cal State Fullerton. He allowed only two runs with eight strikeouts to help Cal Poly win only its second series over Cal State Fullerton in the last 38 years.
Fellow Cal Poly starting pitcher Steven Fischback said during practice time Radeke is always focused on baseball, and seldom breaks any concentration in practice.
“He is really not someone that ever goofs off,” Fischback said. “He’s focused, he’s determined and set on his goals at playing at the next level and keeps his sight on that.”
Fischback said it is Radeke’s mental strength that separates him from other pitchers in the Big West.
“One of the biggest reasons for his success is his confidence,” Fischback said. “At the end of the day, he knows he is the better pitcher. He always expects to win, and that mentality sets him apart. He’s not scared of failure.”
This season, Radeke tied Cal Poly’s single game strikeout record with 14 over Valparaiso and added another 13 strikeouts versus Santa Barbara.
But despite Radeke’s success, the Mustangs have been battling all season to dig themselves out of an early hole.
Though it may be a long-shot to make NCAA Regionals, Radeke said he is going to continue his focus in each and every pitch until the season is over.
“I’m still going to continue playing my hardest,” Radeke said. “It doesn’t change my mentality. I’m still going to go out and win and compete every game. ”