Baseball has always been a game of superstitions, especially for pitchers, but for Alex Pantuso, a 6’5”, 230 lbs. senior from Baldwin, Pennsylvania, success on the pitcher’s mound has been found without such beliefs, simply by taking each game as it comes.
For the past four seasons, Pantuso has been a dominant force on the mound for the Slippery Rock University baseball team. Pantuso recently broke the baseball team’s all-time strikeout record with a 14-strikeout performance against Clarion University on April 6.
“It’s a huge honor,” a soft-spoken Pantuso said. “There have been a lot of great pitchers to come through here. It is something I have always wanted to do and it just feels really good to break the record.”
Pantuso has recorded 238 strikeouts, allowing 138 runs (107 earned), with an ERA of 5.19. Rock head coach Jeff Messer, currently in his 33rd year coaching SRU, called Pantuso one of the premier pitchers the team has ever had. Pantuso, as a senior at Baldwin High School, had multiple offers from a variety of Division II programs as well as a number of Division I offers as well, including one from Temple University in Philadelphia, with whom he originally committed to, Messer said.
“Alex was going to go to Temple,” Messer said. “They ended up dropping their program, fortunately for us, not for them. Alex could have then gone to a number of other Division I programs, but he chose to come to Slippery Rock.”
Pantuso said SRU offered him a scholarship before he even committed to Temple, so The Rock, although Division II, was one of his first options once Temple dropped their program.
On the season, Pantuso is third in the PSAC in strikeouts with 57. He also ranks eighth in the conference with 14 strikeouts looking. He attributes a large part of his success to his go-to strikeout pitch, a slider, which Messer called “a major league style breaking pitch.”
“He has a major league style fastball too, but his slider is his definite strikeout pitch,” Messer said.
Pantuso’s fastball averages speeds of 91-93 mph but has been clocked as high a 96 mph. Messer said he believes Pantuso’s height has given him an advantage at times, but it is not as big of a factor as one would think. He is tall, but Pantuso has also has had a “tremendous” work ethic throughout his career, Messer explained. Messer continued and said during the offseason, Pantuso works hard and does all the right things to ensure he is at the top of his game. Messer then said, that although height isn’t the biggest deal in college, to play at the next level, Pantuso has the upper hand.
“You could be the best pitcher in the world, but if you’re 5-10, you aren’t going to get as many opportunities, whereas if you’re 6-5, strong, healthy, and you throw hard, which Alex does, you have a huge plus,” Messer explained.
Looking back on his career at The Rock, Pantuso said there a number of standout moments that he will remember, but one, in particular, will always stick out to him. On March 6, 2015, Pantuso’s freshman season, the baseball team was in Clearwater, Florida, taking on the University of the Sciences from Philadelphia. The Rock rallied from 3-2 deficit to win the game 6-3, which was ultimately Coach Messer’s 900th career win.
“I wasn’t even in the game but it was definitely one of my favorite games to be a part of,” Pantuso said.
Pantuso will look to increase his number of strikeouts with a four-game weekend series against Mercyhurst University, with the first two on Friday being at Mercyhurst and the second two on Saturday at Jack Critchfield Park in Slippery Rock.