ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Amateur baseball: Collin Lovell is practically pitcher-perfect

WINDOM -- Whenever ace right-hander Collin Lovell takes the mound in a Windom Pirates game, confidence oozes out from him to the rest of the team. "When he's on the mound, we believe we can beat anyone," says player-coach Nick Kulseth. The tall, ...

3545990+Collin Lovell.2 rgb.jpg
Windom Pirates pitcher Collin Lovell, shown at Island Park baseball field in Windom, is using the experience he gained in college to propel his team to victories in the amateur playoff season. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WINDOM -- Whenever ace right-hander Collin Lovell takes the mound in a Windom Pirates game, confidence oozes out from him to the rest of the team.

“When he’s on the mound, we believe we can beat anyone,” says player-coach Nick Kulseth.

The tall, angular Lovell was a solid pitcher during his high school days at Windom. What he’s learned at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D., however, has taken him to a new level.

The 2017 college graduate pitched a seven-inning perfect game against Ruthton in the first round of the amateur baseball playoffs earlier this month, and on Wednesday he posted a 10-inning 4-1 victory against Pipestone. He retired 27-straight A’s batters in the game, finishing with one hit allowed, one walk and 18 strikeouts.

Lovell credits his college experience for turning him from a good pitcher into an outstanding one.

ADVERTISEMENT

But things didn’t start off well at Augustana. He hurt his elbow at the high school All-Star Game after his senior season and became a candidate for Tommy John surgery.

“So I took about nine months off before I actually started throwing at school. It was hard because nobody really knew what I had. It kind of set me back right away,” Lovell said.

He was given a role in relief. He never started a game for Augie, in fact, and pitched mostly on the junior varsity team until his junior year -- when a welcome change occurred.

“With a new pitching coach, we started doing new drills,” Lovell said.

The key factor was a weighted ball program that helped him build up his arm strength through a technique that taught his throwing arm to lay back farther for a better whipping action. In time, Lovell learned to pitch with more power.

“If that coach hadn’t shown up, I don’t know if I’d have the success I had,” the Pirates ace recalls today.

Lovell made 21 pitching appearances for the Vikings in 2016, posting a 4-0 record with an earned run average of 4.62. He earned three saves and struck out 30 batters in 25.1 innings pitched.

As a senior in 2017, he also made 21 appearances, compiling the second-lowest ERA on the team (1.77) with a 2-1 record and eight saves. He struck out 51 batters in his 40.2 innings and walked only eight.

ADVERTISEMENT

In high school, according to Lovell’s own estimates, his fastball topped in the upper 70s. He touched 90 miles per hour a few times in college.

Going hard in the weight room, plus using the weighted ball program, greatly fueled his improvement as a hurler. He went from 180 pounds in high school to 210 pounds in his senior year at Augustana.

His mental game improved dramatically. He learned what it took to make it at the higher level.

“In high school, I think a lot of things get to you, and you start to worry. But in college, you can’t have any of that,” Lovell said the day after his Pipestone domination. “I worked my butt off. You had to do that or you just weren’t going to make it.”

Cruising along In Windom’s 13-0 whitewashing of Ruthton on July 20, Lovell spent most of the game blissfully unaware of what he was doing.

“It didn’t even feel like I was throwing that well. We were just cruising along,” he said. “That night, our hitting was just clicking and everybody was having fun. We didn’t even realize what was happening. I don’t think I noticed it until about the sixth inning when I noticed I wasn’t going out of the stretch.

“In the seventh inning, the first guy got up. He hit one to right-center. Luke Gilbertson made a great diving catch. Anyone else out there, it was gonna fall.”

After the game, his Pirates teammates didn’t hoist him on their shoulders or give him a water bath. Perhaps it was because they had already grown accustomed to their star’s superlative pitching performances.

ADVERTISEMENT

Windom took a 15-7 record into Friday night’s second playoff game (it’s a best-of-three series) against the A’s.

Lovell says his fastball and his slider are his best two pitches, and his strikeout pitch is usually the slider. But when the slider is not at its best, he admits, he can usually get his fastball past hitters.

Helping others Lovell’s obvious physical skills are not the only qualities that make him a valuable asset for the Pirates. He happily shares his knowledge with his teammates.

His younger brother Kobe, and Kobe’s best friend Gilbertson -- both pitchers -- have been taken under Collin’s wing.

“I actually bought my own set of weighted balls. And I’ve put them under a program. And, actually, it’s showed that it’s been working a lot,” says the elder Lovell.

“I wake (Kobe) up at 6 every morning and we go and lift almost every morning. I’m actually getting him to do what I didn’t do in high school,” said the Pirates ace.

While he was in high school, Lovell loved basketball probably at least as much as baseball. Now, however, he’s hoping he’ll be able to stay many more seasons to pitch for his home town. He’s looking for a good job, which would allow him to stay.

Kulseth, who says he’d give him a job himself if only he could, would surely hate to see him go.

“He’ll give you everything he’s got. When he’s on that mound, he’s determined. He’s kind of the inspiration for the team,” Kulseth testified on Friday. “He’s made himself better. But he also makes the guys around him better.”

 

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
What To Read Next
Luverne is seeded No. 1 in the upcoming Section 3A girls high school hockey tournament and Worthington is seeded sixth.
The Worthington Trojans boys basketball team played exceptional defense against Canistota, surrendering a mere 11 points in the first half.
Outstanding outside shooting helped the Eagles beat Worthington in Worthington, 82-68
The Trojan girls hockey team lost 12-1 to the Blades. The Trojans were down several players due to injury and started an emergency backup at goalie.