By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Division III Neumann University has become one of the better college baseball programs in the area over the last few years.
This year they are 16-6 and ranked 20th in the country and a large part of that success is courtesy of the left arm of junior Russ Gilliam.
The 6’1″ Gilliam hails from Brick, New Jersey and he has been nothing short of dominant in 2012. In 7 appearances (5 starts), Gilliam is 5-0 with a minuscule 0.75 ERA. He’s pitched 36 innings — striking out an absurd 56 batters while walking just seven. Opponents are hitting just .185 against him. Gilliam talks about the repertoire that allows him to leave so many batters shaking their heads in disbelief.
“Since my freshman year, my fastball’s developed a lot over the three years that I’ve been here. My velocity’s up there, so that’s good. And I’ve really gotten the hang of throwing a curveball in any count at any point and has been my big pitch and has been getting me through this year.”
Gilliam also has a change-up he says has really helped keep batters honest.
“It’s more of a show-me pitch. But I’ve been throwing it consistently for a strike so it’s been helping me out.”
Listen to KYW’s Matt Leon’s interview with Russ Gilliam:
As if he needs another weapon, he says he is also trying to develop a cutter.
Gilliam’s dominance is by no means a surprise as he has had success since he arrived in Aston and is already the all-time school leader in wins (20 as of 3/30). His coach with the Knights, John Fleming, talks about how Gilliam landed at Neumann.
“Not a lot of teams were on him right away because he was a tall, slender kid – (throwing) low 80s. But when I looked at him, I thought he could fill out, put about 20-25 pounds on and get to the upper (80s) – where he’s gotten.”
Fleming says having a arm like Gilliam at the top of a rotation is “a dream” and he adds even impartial observers come away impressed after watching him throw.
“This past Saturday where he had 16 strikeouts (in 7 innings in a 5-0 win over Centenary College), the umpire after the game, came up and said, ‘Best game I’ve seen pitched in two years.’ And this is a guy who (umpired) DI, DII and DIII over the two years.”
Listen to KYW’s Matt Leon’s interview with John Fleming:
Needless to say, pro scouts are also taking notice, but Gilliam is trying to take all the attention in stride.
“Some things are coming to reality, a couple of teams started coming to games. I filled out a couple of packets and stuff. But I’m trying to keep my focus here for Neumann, trying to get wins for us and lead our program to a championship.”
Gilliam and the Knights battle Gwynedd-Mercy College this weekend.