Shane McClanahan made 15 starts for the University of South Florida in 2017. Posting an ERA of 3.20, he struck out 104 batters in 74 innings, an American Conference-leading 12.32 per nine innings. Opponents hit .181 against him. All impressive stats, but his talent suggests there is more to be seen and enjoyed in 2018.
After numerous preseason accolades, including being named to a number of All-American teams, landing at or near the top of every projected list for the June draft, and his new role for the Bulls as the Friday starter, expectations are high and getting higher as the regular season approaches for McClanahan.
Those expectations may well be his toughest opponent for 2018, but McClanhan doesn’t seem to be fazed by all the attention.
“Honestly, expectations are something I cannot control, so truthfully I don’t worry about that. I focus on what I am supposed to do, execute my pitches, and trust the teammates behind me” McClanahan insisted.
If the fall is any indication, executing those pitches is something that has greatly improved.
The fastball has always been there, up to 97-98 MPH on occasion and routinely working in the 93-95 range. Lefties that throw mid-to-upper 90’s garner a lot of attention. That’s pretty universal.
However, his changeup is now on another level, an elite level, according to the numerous MLB scouts that watch him pitch every time he takes the mound. Unhittable from what I have seen. Some days untouchable. Add in a knee-buckling slider and McClanahan is about as tough a college baseball pitcher as you will see.
Still, McClanahan wants to get better. Executing his pitches is something he worked on over the summer with former Bulls pitching coach, and now USF head coach, Billy Mohl.
“We told him there were a couple of things we wanted him to work on this fall if he wanted to get to where he wanted to be. His command over his secondary pitches (off-speed) and to do a better job of holding runners on. To his credit, he worked really hard to accomplish that,” said Mohl . “He threw 90% fastballs last year, the command just wasn’t there for the off-speed pitches.”
“I cannot say enough good things about Coach Mohl. He really is like a second father to me, as well as the best pitching coach in the country. He has told me over and over, trust your stuff and trust your teammates behind you,” said McClanahan. “The secondary stuff has always been there. Coach Mohl taught me to trust it. He has been the big the difference maker for me, on and off the field. Whether it’s baseball or something in the classroom, he wants only the best for me and for all of us.”
“I gave up way too many walks last year,” said McClanahan.
Reminded that he gave up four home runs, McClanahan chuckled and quickly interjected, “And they all went really far, Don. One thing I learned last year is that mistakes at this level go 450 feet.”
He chats regularly with former Bulls Friday night starter Phoenix Sanders, seeking that veteran kind of advice.
“Yeah, we text all the time. I learned a lot watching him the past two years. They way he prepared and how focused he was on game day,” said McClanahan.
Any personals goals for McClanahan will have to wait, as he chooses to focus on team goals.
“My personal goals are really team goals. I think we have some unfinished business from last year. This team is as close with one another as any team I have been on since I got here,” said McClanahan. “We open with North Carolina and we can’t wait to get started.”
One of the real privileges college baseball writers get to enjoy is watching young men arrive on campus, largely with “deer in the headlights” looks on their faces, and witnessing the maturation process. They learn to be leaders, how to accept responsibility, and how to deflect praise. McClanahan is the latest example of that.
Time to enjoy 2018.