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Thomas Makes Big Impression, Despite Size

LOS ANGELES—Ricky Tyler Thomas doesn’t exactly cut an imposing figure when he takes the mound.

Generously listed at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, the Fresno State lefthander has neither the build nor frame of a typical top-level college pitcher.

And then he starts throwing, and everything changes.

Thomas made his first appearance for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team on Tuesday and routinely hit 90 mph with a smooth delivery in his lone inning of work against the Santa Barbara Foresters of the California Collegiate League.

While he gave up two hits and a run because of some trouble locating his offspeed pitches, Thomas nonetheless made an impression on the Collegiate National Team coaching staff.

“He throws easy. The ball comes out of his hand sneaky fast,” said manager George Horton, who is the head coach at Oregon. “I think he’s a guy that projects for me because it’s very easy. It’s not a max effort thing. He’s under control.”

Thomas, 20, went 9-4, 2.16 with three complete games in the spring. He led the Mountain West Conference with 108 strikeouts in 104 innings while walking only 16 batters, limited opponents to a .223 batting average, and posted a 0.98 WHIP.

While the level of competition can be used against him, Thomas held his own against some of the nation’s elite.

Most notably, in a non-conference game against then-No. 3 Texas A&M on March 11, Thomas went the distance, gave up five hits, and struck out nine in a 3-2 loss.

“You don’t really focus on if scouts or people discount what you’re doing or whatever,” Thomas said. “You just play the game, play with passion, that’s about it.”

In addition to his 88-90 mph fastball, Thomas flashed a sweeping curve and late-diving changeup, both in the upper-70s, in his Collegiate National Team appearance.

While the stuff and delivery impressed Horton, it’s clear Thomas still has some convincing to do for the scouts.

“We’ll see,” said one. “He’s certainly famous enough,”

“He’s interesting,” added another dispassionately.

Another reason Horton, though, is bullish on Thomas is his athleticism.

Thomas was a two-year letterwinner in basketball at Mira Mesa High just outside of San Diego in addition to his baseball stardom.

“He’s really athletic ,” Horton said, “and athletic pitchers, in my opinion, as they mature continue to get better and better.”

That’s an intriguing thought for Thomas, who already finished in top 10 in the nation among underclassmen in innings pitched, WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio this past season.

In the meantime, he’ll have a chance to show his stuff on a broader stage with the Collegiate National Team.

“There are some first-time jitters, gotta get rid of that,” Thomas said. “My only goal here is just have fun with my teammates and get W’s.”

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