Three years ago Vince Wheeland helped lead Turlock High into the Division I South San Joaquin Section Championship game against St. Mary’s High. The then senior finished the season with a .74 ERA, 13 wins, and 147 strike outs over the course of 85 innings and was named the MVP of the Bulldogs, the Central California Conference, and the Stanislaus District, as well as making the all-state team. With his productivity and power from the hill, few were surprised when Big 12 contender Oklahoma State University recruited him.
“He had that much talent and confidence in himself in high school,” Turlock coach Mark de la Motte said. “He’s one of the best pitchers Turlock’s ever had, and we’ve had some good ones.”
Now, as a junior, Wheeland has lived up to expectations and put up the type of numbers the Cowboys had in mind when they first recruited the Turlock native. Wheeland is currently tied for second in the Big 12 with six wins in a team-high 17 appearances. His 1.85 ERA is good enough for fifth in the league, as is his 47 strikeouts.
“I’m more confident and have better command of my pitches,” Wheeland said. “Maturing has something to do with it, but we also have a new pitching coach in Rob Walton and he’s been helping me out a lot.”
Though his season is far from over, his current output was good enough to provide Wheeland with a pleasant surprise last week when he was one of 41 pitchers to be selected for the College Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2013 Pitcher of the Year Award Watch List.
“It means a lot. It means my hard work’s paying off,” Wheeland said. “It was unexpected. I’m on a list with a really good group of guys.”
Wheeland is one of three Big 12 pitchers up for the prestigious individual award.
Though honored by his selection, Wheeland’s focus remains on the Cowboys’ ongoing Big 12 season and hunt for a spot in this year’s NCAA Regional Tournament. Oklahoma State is currently 25-10 overall and 5-6 in the conference.
“We’ve had a few bumps in the road but we’ve been working hard and battling,” Wheeland said. “We’re right in the position that we want to be in. Of course, our ultimate goal is Omaha, but first we got to get into the tournament; we need to make Regionals.”
The 2013 Pitcher of the Year Award will be presented during the College Baseball Hall of Fame Night of Champions on June 29.
“I’m just waiting to see what happens; I just need to keep performing,” Wheeland said.