April 3, 2014
By Sean Brennan
Special to BIGEAST.com
Their jackets read Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres among others as the army of Major League Baseball scouts jockeyed for position at the fence behind home plate. Each one armed with their radar guns which were held aloft for each pitch, the number recorded, the notes scribbled in their pads. The same routine would be repeated over and over again for roughly the next three hours as each of Josh Prevost’s pitches was documented.
That was March 28 on a cold and dreary Friday afternoon in New Rochelle as Prevost, Seton Hall’s dominating senior ace, hurled a two-hit gem in an 8-0 victory over Iona College. It was a game which saw Iona sneak just one ball out of the infield as it managed only two hits in eight innings as Prevost logged a career-best 11 strikeouts. It was a day he bested the Gaels’ Mariano Rivera, Jr., with his more famous father in attendance. But so far this season it’s been a similar show in each and every Prevost start.
Welcome to Friday’s with Josh.
“It kind of gets my adrenaline going. I like showing off for whoever is there,” Prevost said. “It doesn’t distract me at all. I pitch to contact, but if I get some strikeouts and the scouts see that and they like it, so be it. I just like winning, winning on Friday’s especially, so it doesn’t matter who is behind home plate.”
A hulking 6-8, 220-pound righthander, Prevost is an intimidating presence on the mound. And his numbers so far this season are even more menacing. In seven starts (as of April 3), all Prevost has done is post a stellar 7-0 record with a miniscule 1.45 ERA. He’s been an absolute joy for opposing batters to face this season as they are hitting just .172 against the daunting righthander while Prevost has walked just six while striking out 48 in 56 innings of work. So you can see why Friday’s are must-see baseball with Seton Hall.
“He’s hit the ground running I guess you could say,” said Seton Hall coach Rob Sheppard. “He’s done a tremendous job for us. At the conclusion of his junior year Josh wanted to be that Friday guy, the number one guy. And he’s embraced the desire to be the Friday guy and he’s done a tremendous job with it. Some guys are just put in that role but he’s a guy that you could tell wanted that role and he’s excelled at it.”
Prevost’s record is not padded with victories over no-name programs. Quite the contrary. Prevost opened a lot of eyes right from the start of the season when he went six strong innings in an Opening Day victory over then-No. 28 Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., on Valentine’s Day. Eight days later, it was a complete-game victory at Richmond before he allowed just one earned run over eight innings in a 9-1 victory over then-No. 22 Arizona in Tucson. That Wildcats team had come into the game with a team batting average of .359, by the way.
“Obviously it’s good to get off to a good start,” Prevost said. “I kind of like playing against better competition. I knew I was up to the task.”
Prior to this season Prevost had gone more than six innings just once in his career. So far this year he has hurled three complete games and has two more wins this season than he had in his first three combined seasons with the Pirates. So it’s not at all surprising to note that Prevost has already been named BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week four times while landing on the Honor Roll the other three weeks.
So why the major jump from reliever/spot starter the past three seasons to sheer dominance this season for Prevost? He credits some former teammates with his meteoric rise.
“In the past three years I had a lot of good starters to look up to,” Prevost said. “Jon Prosinski, who was my high school teammate (at Montgomery High in New Jersey), was one of the best pitchers we’ve ever had. And Brian Gilbert, who was my roommate last year, was an amazing pitcher as well. Being around those guys and taking things from those guys really helped my repertoire and really helped out.”
The repertoire includes his two-seam and four-seam fastballs along with his changeup and slider. Prevost said his fastball, which usually lives in the low 90s but has checked in on occasion at 94, “is definitely my best pitch.”
Prevost’s ascension to the role of ace is even more compelling in that the Pirates were looking for Jose Lopez to assume that role this season. But when Lopez was lost for the season after he underwent Tommy John surgery this winter, Prevost jumped into the role with both feet and opposing teams have been paying the price ever since.
“When Jose went down I absolutely felt an obligation to take over as ace and he was so supportive of me and he still is,” Prevost said. “When he went down I needed to step up which I think I’ve done so far. But nothing really surprises me. I fully expect to dominate whoever I pitch against. I feel like I have that kind of ability.”
Sheppard said even if the Lopez injury had never occurred, Prevost still might have been handed the Friday role.
“In all honesty, the way he threw this fall, even if Jose was healthy Josh would probably still be our number one,” Sheppard said. “He came back expecting to be the number one and we had those same expectations as well. He has the ability to throw strikes with every pitch. He has great command.”
Prevost, who said his dream has been to play Major League Baseball “since I was five-years old and playing T-ball,” said he was a big fan of former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter and his penchant for going right after hitters.
“Chris Carpenter was the ultimate competitor,” Prevost said. “I just loved the way he pitched, he just attacked everybody. He was just fun to watch.”
Prevost is turning in his superlative season despite a recent tragedy in his life when his dad passed away in January after a long bout with cancer. It’s a topic Prevost chooses not to discuss, though Sheppard said his righthander honors his late father with a simple message inside the bill of his cap where he simply wrote the word “DAD.”
It makes what Prevost is doing this season that much more remarkable.
“He’s matured quite a bit since he’s been here,” Sheppard said. “I think he’s gone through a lot of things outside of baseball that have helped him put things in perspective. He’s a quality young man. He has a great work ethic, he works his butt off and he wants to compete. As far as making a career out of baseball, I think he’s in the right place mentally and physically at this point.”
With the BIG EAST conference games commencing Friday, Prevost is looking to add to his already spectacular season. He said he has his own goals in mind but wasn’t about to spill them just yet.
“Our pitching coach (Phil Cundari) has us write down our personal goals and team goals before each season.” Prevost said. “I wrote them down and so far I think I’m doing better than I wrote down. I’m just kind of playing week-by-week and just trying to get better each week. My mentality is: ‘Don’t worry about last week, try to get better this week.’ Just try to improve everything you’re doing. With the BIG EAST Conference games coming up I’m going to try and be even better than I have been.”
Which is surely not good news for the rest of the BIG EAST.