By Paul Casey Gotham
Pat Urckfitz spent last May coming out of the bullpen to help the Monroe Community College Tribunes finish third in the National Junior College World Series.
One year later Urckfitz still makes that walk from the pen. Now the lefty does his work for the Lexington Legends of the Class A South Atlantic League.
He may have changed uniforms, and the scenery differs a little, but once again Pat Urckfitz is proving himself worthy.
Earlier this week with the Legends clinging to a one-run lead in ninth over the second place Savannah Sand Gnats, Coach Tom Lawless called on Urckfitz. The Penfield, New York native responded by retiring the three batters he faced for his first save at the Class A level.
“He’s found a rhythm and doing a nice job,” commented Lawless. “His slider is starting to work for him, and he’s getting ahead in the count.”
Urckfitz has allowed one earned run in his last six appearances striking out 10 in seven and two-thirds innings.
“He’s a multiple inning guy,” added Lawless. “But we’ve also brought him in to face lefties in some situations.”
After a rough start Urckfitz has settled into his role.
“I struggled early in the season locating the ball,” said Urckfitz. “I wasn’t throwing my slider where I wanted.”
Over 13 appearances Urckfitz has struck out 18 and walked 6 for the Class A affiliate of the Houston Astros.
In last year’s NJCAA tournament Urckfitz tossed 11.3 innings of relief surrendering just one run while striking out 15.
Before signing as a free agent with the Astros, Urckfitz fanned 25 in 14.2 innings of work with the Webster Yankees of the New York Collegiate Baseball League. Opposing batters hit a paltry .207 against the lefty.
From there Urckfitz made 15 appearances for the Greeneville Astros of the Rookie Appalachian League fanning 23 in 19 innings of work while notching an ERA of 1.40. The southpaw finished 1-0 with three saves for the campaign.
Those numbers earned Urckfitz a spot in the Astros’ fall instructional league at Kissimmee, Florida.
“If they don’t think much of you, they don’t invite you,” said Webster Yankee Coach Dave Brust of the invite to fall league. “It’s an investment.”
For his efforts Urckfitz earned a spot in early Spring Training.
“That was a good experience,” commented Urckfitz. “It was a big challenge with mostly Double-A guys.”
One difference for the 20-year old has been life on the road.
“At first it was an adjustment because we go on the road for eight days at a time. It took some getting used to. But it’s all right now.”
Wherever Urckfitz has gone, he leaves behind a positive impression.
“You’re not going to meet a better human being than Pat,” said current MCC and former Webster Yankee head coach, Mike Kelly. “As good of a pitcher as he is, Pat is twice that as a person.”
It’s only a matter of time before Lexington Legends’ fans learn the same.