“The Pitch” was created not in a laboratory, but on a pitcher’s mound during Monterey High batting practice.
Jared Robinson positioned his fingers apart on opposite seams, but it just did not feel right. So he changed the grip.
Still not comfortable.
Finally, Robinson, now a junior righthander for the University of Houston, found just the right mix that combines elements of a knuckleball, split-finger fastball and changeup.
Only one problem.
“I don’t know what to call it,” Robinson said Wednesday as the Cougars prepared for this weekend’s best-of-three super regional against Texas at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin. “Some days, it’s strike three; some days, it’s ball four.”
“The Pitch” allowed Robinson to do a lot of the heavy lifting out of the bullpen for Houston, which came out of the losers bracket to win three games in two days, including a pair against national seed LSU at the Baton Rouge Regional and advanced to the Super Regional in Austin.
Robinson threw 91 pitches in the regional opener against Bryant and came back three days later for 100 pitches in Monday night’s clincher against LSU.
In the two games, Robinson allowed one earned run with 12 strikeouts and three walks in 13 innings.
“J-Rob picked us up,” Houston coach Todd Whitting said. “He allowed us to get into this weekend without having to completely tap out our bullpen (on a short week).”
Robinson was voted “Most Likely to be a Millionaire” at Monterey and for two seasons at Midland Junior College, has been a steady contributor in relief for a Cougar pitching staff that has been among the nation’s best this season. He went 5-1 with a 1.42 ERA in 22 appearances yet was often overshadowed by the Cougars’ duo of setup man Tyler Ford and closer Chase Wellbrock.
“He’s been great for us all year,” Houston starting pitcher Aaron Garza said. “He can come into a game and change speeds.”
Whitting went to Robinson early after starter Andrew Lantrip did not make it out of the third inning against Bryant. He responded by allowing one run and two hits over 6 2⁄3 innings.
On short rest, Robinson entered a 2-2 game in the third inning against LSU. He later admitted he went into the game trying to “wing it and go as long as I could.”
“I thought there might be a chance I would come in for an inning or two,” he said. “I had no idea I’d go that long.”
“The Pitch” kept the fastball-hitting LSU lineup off-balance over 61⁄3 shutout innings. UH responded with a seven-run third inning and cruised to a 12-2 victory, sealing the school’s first super regional berth since 2003.
“First and foremost, he’s not coming out,” Whitting said. “There’s no way you’re getting the ball out of his hand in that situation.”
In an era when pitch counts are heavily scrutinized, Whitting said there was never any concern about whether Robinson’s arm could handle the load. The workload in the regional was more than one-third his innings total (311⁄3) for the regular season.
“It’s not hard on his arm,” Whitting said. “It’s not like you are talking about a guy that’s out there having to labor throwing slider after slider after slider. It’s one of those pitches that’s not a wear-and-tear pitch on his arm. He felt great.
“In that situation, that’s the biggest moment in his life on a baseball field. He’s not coming out of that game. That’s something he’ll remember the rest of his life.”