Savannah State has never had a pitcher drafted and never had a player drafted higher than the 16th round. Both those things are going to change this year.
Righthander Kyle McGowin is on track to easily become the school's highest draft pick and continues to gain steam as he climbs up the Division I leaderboards. After this weekend, McGowin is currently third in the country in strikeouts. Over his first seven games (six starts), McGowin is 6-0, 1.68 with 38 hits, 58 strikeouts and six walks over 48 innings.
McGowin was undrafted out of high school and hasn't been on the scouting radar in a major summer college league. He's just steadily improved every year for the Tigers under head coach Carlton Hardy.
"He has developed physically and maturity wise," Hardy said. "I think he's at the point when he came back in the fall with a different demeanor about him. He was like, 'Hey, this is my year. I'm going to go out and do the best I can.' And what he's done so far has just been a godsend for us."
McGowin came to Savannah State from Pierson High in Sag Harbor, N.Y. Over the past two summers he's pitched in a summer college league where wealthy East Coast families like to vacation. No, not the Cape Cod League, the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League—a division of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League. Pitching in his hometown for the Sag Harbor Whalers last summer, he went 3-2, 2.73 with 65 strikeouts and nine walks over 56 innings. After the season, McGowin ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the league.
He has a lean, athletic build at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds. He shows a loose, repeatable delivery and pitches with a good line to the plate. He works quickly and the ball comes out of his hand with ease. He throws a two- and four-seam fastball. The two-seamer sits in the 86-89 mph range with late life. He generates a lot of groundballs and will break bats as a professional. The four-seamer is typically in the 91-93 mph range, but he can reach back for even more, when necessary.
McGowin pitches with some emotion on the mound. He gets fired up after giving up a base hit or a run, and that's when he dials up his fastball—which has gotten as hot as 95 mph this year.
"That's one thing, in my opinion, a lot of individuals don't have that," Hardy said. "When things go bad, they tend to go into a shell. But his competitive nature just takes over and he's like, 'OK. You got me that time, but you're not going to get me again.' "
Right now, McGowin pitches backwards a lot and throws a lot of secondary stuff. His slider has hard, 11-5 break in the 76-79 range and he has a lot of confidence in the pitch.
"His slider, in my opinion, is his best pitch," Hardy said. "His secondary pitches are pretty darned good. I think that separates him from a lot of individuals across the country, because he can throw his slider 3-2, bases loaded in the championship game and he will throw it for a strike."
He also throws a changeup in the 80-83 with similar fading movement to his fastball. It's his third pitch, but he shows some feel for it and it has a chance to be an average offering.
In addition to his three-pitch mix, McGowin also stands out for his athleticism and his demeanor both on and off the field.
"He's one of the kids we have who can dunk a basketball," Hardy said. "He came in as an outfielder also, but he's more valuable to us on the mound.
"He carries himself like he's the guy. He's a pro pitching for us, in my opinion. I think he sees the light. He's always had a great work ethic, he's a gym rat. You just look at him and he looks different. I can't put my hand on it, but you just look at him on the mound, or even the way he plays catch, and it's just a different look."