Two Former Pirates Having Success at St. Mary’s
After playing with the Pirates in 2018 and 2019, respectively, pitcher Liam Stigerwald and outfielder Blake Mann are dominating their competition at St. Mary’s. It comes as no surprise since both are familiar with the competition of D1 baseball, having played previously at UC Santa Barbara.
“[Playing with the Pirates] was a big turning point for me,” Stigerwald said.
Stigerwald, a graduate student, has overwhelmed opposing hitters as a relief pitcher with just a 1.03ERA and a .231 batting average against. He also has the capacity to provide length out of the pen having pitched 26.1 innings in his 16 appearances while posting a 2-0 record. Among St. Mary’s pitchers without a start, nobody has thrown more innings than Stigerwald.
The right hander attributes his recent success to having an imposing presence on the mound, something which he says he lacked until he played for the Pirates.
“That summer allowed me to free up and have a personal presence on the mound, whereas before I didn’t really have an identity.”
Stigerwald, who throws a fastball, curveball, changeup, and slider, picked up his slider while playing with the Pirates. He says his wide variety of secondary pitches also contributes to his recent success by allowing him to keep hitters guessing.
Stigerwald’s teammate on the offensive side, Blake Mann, has put on a clinic in run-production of late. He is second on the team with 21 RBIs despite having 50 fewer at-bats than the team leader in that category. His three homers are the second most on his team and he sports an OPS of .715.
“I’m just focusing on being on time to the fastball, staying on my back hip so I can react to off-speed and just having an overall good approach depending on the situation,” Mann said.
Mann put the offense on his back with five RBIs and two home runs in a win against Cal earlier this season. The home runs were hit off of two different pitchers and accounted for 4 of his RBIs. Mann demonstrated his patience under pressure later in the game, as his fifth RBI came by way of a bases-loaded walk.
Production is nothing new for Mann, who was an integral part of the Pirates 2019 SBL championship run. He credits his experience in summer ball with keeping him locked in at the plate.
“I think getting quality at bats on a competitive team, you know we won the championship that year, really set me up for success the next year,” Mann said.
Stigerwald and Mann each learned valuable lessons with the Pirates that helped prepare them for their second go around at the Division 1 level, but neither player is the type to be complacent with their current performance. Both have an innate desire to continue learning the game and, according to Pirates General Manager George Vranau, they each have the ability to play beyond the college level.
“Both of these guys could be drafted this year,” Vranau said.
If Stigerwald and Mann are drafted, they would be the 13th and 14th players to be drafted after playing for the Ventura County Pirates. Prospective Pirates for the 2021 season can register at this link: https://www.vcbucs.com/sign-up.