UNIVERSITY PARK — Sometimes the baseball calendar aligns in such a way that a special talent makes his professional debut in a unfamiliar setting before 3,036 strangers.
That calendar happened to drop Aberdeens Kevin Gausman onto the Medlar Field at Lubrano Park pitchers mound Monday.
Judging by his performance, and the scouting reports, Gausmans brief outing might eventually creep onto the list of memorable Medlar Field moments.
The Baltimore Orioles first-round draft pick dominated the State College Spikes, pitching three perfect innings to begin the IronBirds 4-1 victory.
The Orioles thought enough of Gausman to make him the fourth overall selection in this years Major League Baseball Draft. It took $4.32 million for the Orioles to bring Gausman into their farm system.
Gausman agreed to terms shortly before last months signing deadline and eased into professional baseball, spending three weeks at the Orioles complex in Sarasota, Fla., working his electric right arm into shape. He then joined the IronBirds, whose third and final game here coincided with the fifth day on Gausmans throwing schedule.
Raised in Denver and a product of LSUs successful program, Gausmans only entry into Pennsylvania before the series was to make a flight connection at Pittsburgh International Airport. Gausman said he wanted to make his debut at Aberdeens Ripken Stadium, but he will possess fond memories of central Pennsylvania.
That pitchers mound was my island, said Gausman, the highest drafted pitcher to start a game at Medlar Field. I didnt know anybody here. It was really my first time being in Pennsylvania other than flying through Pittsburgh. It was pretty cool, a really nice stadium. It was just a fun night.
Gausman didnt act like a pitcher who hasnt made a game appearance in nearly two months. He flustered the ailing Spikes, who were missing their own high draft pitch, center fielder Barrett Barnes, for a sixth straight game because of a shin injury.
Holding a 3-0 before unleashing his first pitch a 94 mph low-fastball, Gausman used tight sliders to strike out Walker Gourley and David Valesente in the first inning. The Spikes caught a slight break because he didnt throw his curveball, but a fastball that touched 96 mph and an advanced slider and change-up further crippled a team trying to recover from Sundays ugly 10-9 loss.
It looked like that loss sucked the energy out of the clubhouse a little bit, Spikes manager Dave Turgeon said.
Expect Gausman to extract vigor from more teams.
Pitchers who throw hard fastballs for strikes flourish in the New York-Penn League. Starters who throw two pitches for strikes are NY-PL All-Stars. Those who can locate three or more pitches are on paths that should yield major-league careers.
The Orioles, though, arent rushing Gausman. He threw 1232/3 innings for LSU this past spring. He said the Orioles are limiting him to six three-inning starts this summer.
In the past, players such as Gausman might not begin professional careers until the spring after their draft year. But MLB moved the draft signing deadline from mid-August to mid- July this summer. The move has provided a talent spike to the NY-PL.
I definitely think its smart to get out there, get my feet wet, in Minor League Baseball and get some innings this summer, Gausman said.
The Spikes will never see Gausman again. They close the season with 28 straight games against Pinckney Division opponents. The IronBirds play in the McNamara Division.
The Spikes embark on a six-game road trip, which begins tonight in Batavia, with a 25-23 record. They trail first-place Auburn (28-19) by 31/ 2 games yet face the Double-days 10 times in the seasons final 31/ 2 weeks. The Spikes remain in second place in the six-team division despite going 2-7 in their past nine games.
Some guys are wearing down, but they are not alone, Turgeon said. I look at other teams, and they are scuffling. Everyone is kind of going through the same thing. The message when we have a team meeting will be, Hey guys, everyone is battling in this thing. Its a grind. Its a war of attrition.
Guy Cipriano can be reached at 231-4643. Follow him on Twitter @cdtguy