Head Coach Jim Morris found himself more than just a pitcher when J.D. Cockroft came to one of the pitcher/catcher camps a few years back. Cockroft has become Miami’s most consistent pitcher, whether it is out of the bullpen or in the starting rotation.
From Foster City, Calif., Cockroft attended Bellarmine College Prep, the same high school that produced former Hurricane great Pat Burrell.
Although Cockroft, a senior, has won the Ron Fraser Award the past two seasons for being the ‘Canes’ top pitcher, he was demoted from the No. 1 starting job at the beginning of the season. After a tough 3-0 loss to Florida on opening night in which his team got him no run support, things went downhill in a hurry and Morris put him in the bullpen. Cockroft took the switch hard.
“It really hurt,” Cockroft said. “Being the number one [starter] had been my goal ever since I got here and it seemed like everything I worked for was going down the drain.”
After five appearances out of the bullpen, a spot in the rotation opened up when Morris felt that starter Dan Touchet needed a couple weeks of rest due to a dead arm. Cockroft has taken full advantage of his opportunity.
“I think I pitched my way back into the role,” Cockroft said. “I’m pitching the best I’ve really pitched in a really long time. It really feels great to be back out there to set the tone for the series.”
His first start back in the rotation was against Florida State, where he went seven innings and only allowed three hits, as Miami shutout the Seminoles 10-0.
“I think I pitched my way back into the role. I’m pitching the best I’ve really pitched in a really long time. It really feels great to be back out there to set the tone for the series” -J.D. Cockroft
When watching Cockroft out on the mound, one immediately realizes that he isn’t a typical lefty pitcher. He doesn’t come after hitters with overpowering fastballs. Instead, he throws slow curveballs that drop out of the zone and changeups that are able to baffle even the best hitters in the country. Cockroft has always heard that he might not have what it takes to be a great pitcher, but he has proved skeptics wrong time and time again.
“I’ve been hearing that I wasn’t going to make it ever since I was a little kid,” Cockroft said. “But I took everything they said and made it fuel my desire to prove them wrong.”
Cockroft feels that there are benefits to not throwing as hard as some other pitchers. These help him when he’s out there on the mound starting, where he prefers to be.
“I’m the kind of pitcher that has good endurance,” Cockroft said. “I don’t throw as hard as the other guys do, but I feel it is an asset to me because I can go longer in games.
Cockroft takes every game the same way. Whether it is the last game of the College World Series or a midweek game against Campbell, he treats it as if the season is on the line. Morris feels that Cockroft has been a special part of his ball club during the past four years.
“He’s done a great job for us. No matter what role we’ve asked him to do, he has gotten it done,” Morris said. “He’s a captain for us, which makes him a leader on the field and off the field. He’s really a great kid.”
Cockroft gets the call Friday, as the No. 5 Hurricanes take on the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers in the opening game of a three-game set.
-Doug Kroll can be contacted at email@example.com.