Wellbrock feature

Eleven times he trotted out of the bullpen in left field and calmly put the game away, making it look almost mundane to the crowds. His role is one of detailed specialization given to sometimes rapid transformation. Last season his craft sometimes saw him on the mound for one inning, and other times three.  His performance is made all the more impressive given that he is not cut in the typical mold of a closer.

A senior, Chase Wellbrock, came to the UH baseball team as a starter but quickly found himself the go-to fireman out of the bullpen. His eleven saves were complimented by the fact he held opposing batters to .247 batting average, statistics good enough to put him in the top five of relievers for Conference-USA.

“I came to UH as a starter and just through time I’ve kind of worked into the relieving role,” said Wellborck. “I like the feeling of having the pressure on and having the game on my shoulders,”

The rolling off the shoulders is a learned skill and part of the reason that baseball coaches have always stressed that closers need short memories. While starters normally have multiple innings to settle down to the feel of a game, closers are thrown into when the pressure is at its highest , often times with the game literally on the line.

“You learn that as you play the game over time,” said Wellbrock. “ If something bad happens, you have to let it roll of your shoulders because tomorrow is another game,”

Closers, like snipers, are a special breed. Even at the college level they are known for mastering quirky pitches or for unique physical builds that bend towards hulking with blazing fastballs or tall, skinny with carefully crafted breaking balls. Wellbrock does not fall into either category. He’s more to the diminutive side of things, but his battery mate thinks it’s something of an advantage.

“I guess he doesn’t fit the stereotype, but that might be deceiving to teams that look at him. He kinda uses that to his advantage,” said senior catcher Caleb Barker.”  I don’t think people expect a whole lot out of him when you see his stuff and when you see him warming up coming into an inning. I think the other team thinks they have a better chance than they do. He does a really good job of locating and mixing his pitches while throwing strikes.  He’s not the big guy who throws hard, but he’s been nails for us out of the pen,”

In lieu of a blistering fastball, Wellbrock makes use of control and movement on his pitches. This approach to pitching was on the display when won a game with a bases loaded strikeout against Texas A&M at the Astros College Classic at Minute Maid Park last season.

A three-year letterman at Keller High School, his success at adapting to the role of closer is one that fulfills one of the most important roles of a closer: making the starters feel comfortable.

“I don’t have a worry in the world when we have Wellbrock out there,” said junior pitcher Aaron Garza. “He’s a big guy for us. He gets after the hitters and. You always have that little edge with Wellbrock coming into the game. He’s extremely incredible at what he does,”

Head coach Todd Whitting, who is looking at a bullpen that still has a few questions as far as experience and game-time performance goes, views Wellbrock as a valued asset as far a veteran presence and influence goes through the course of the long season.

“He’s the anchor of the staff,” said Whitting. “He’s a veteran guy and kind of the leader of that pitching staff. I think they [the newcomers to the staff] look to him and watch how he works and watch how his mentality is during the game.  He’s a workman type guy.  I think they all kind of look to him,”

The high visibility of his role, coupled with the high stakes nature, are something that inspire what some would consider an almost contradictory feeling about his job.

“I love the pressure.  I kind of think I thrive on it a little bit,” said Wellborck.  “I love when the coach puts the game into my hands, when he comes out there and hands me the ball. The reason I’m confident about that is I have the guys behind me who are going to make the plays,”

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