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Kevin Pimentel gives University of Tampa baseball another stellar arm

By Joey Johnston, Times Correspondent
University of Tampa junior right-hander Kevin Pimentel. (Courtesy of University of Tampa)

TAMPA ó University of Tampa junior right-hander Kevin Pimentel has rediscovered his confidence ó and thatís bad news for Spartan opponents.

"Itís like weíve acquired another No. 1 pitcher," UT coach Joe Urso said. "You have two No.?1-type pitchers and thatís a great thing."

Coming off a broken arm that negated his high school senior season ó and two years of mostly mop-up duty at the University of Miami ó Pimentel was seeking a fresh beginning.

He has found just that at UT.

Five starts, five victories, five largely dominant outings.

Overall, he has a 2.96 ERA with just five walks and 19 strikeouts in his 27 1/3 innings, going along with his 5-0 record.

"I wanted to show that I was still good enough," said Pimentel, who grew up in Huntington, N.Y., but finished high school at Central Floridaís Montverde Academy. "I feel like Iím back to being the pitcher I used to be."

Pimentel was the nationís 105th-ranked high-school prospect by Perfect Game and a first-team All-American by Louisville Slugger. But in the summer before his senior year, he fractured his right arm. He already had decided to finish at Montverde Academy ó on the way to his commitment at UM ó but was unable to play baseball.

A full-time emphasis on academics helped his grades and he redshirted with the Hurricanes. He could never win a starting job with UM, though, and got lost in the bullpen shuffle.

"There is no bad blood and the Miami coaches really helped me and cared about me," Pimentel said. "They steered me in the direction of UT. Kind of like Miami, UT is a place where national championships are the normal expectation. I thought it would be an ideal place for me."

With Spartansí holdover ace David Lebron and Pimentel, UT now has one of the nationís top pitching tandems in NCAA Division II.

"I just think Kevin needed to get back out there, get healthy and get into a weekly routine," Urso said. "His arm strength is coming back. He has just pounded the (strike) zone in pretty much all of his outings.

"Heís in a very good groove right now. He certainly doesnít take it for granted. Everyone has to deal with some form of adversity in their career. He had to deal with it earlier than most. But he has worked hard and now heís getting some rewards."

Pimentel touches the low 90s with his fastball, while mixing in an effective slider and changeup. At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, heís a dominant and reliable presence.

"Kevin has been awesome," Urso said. "Weíre so grateful to have him."

Meanwhile, Pimentel said he feels like he found the ideal landing spot in UT.

"I wouldnít say I felt pressure, but I definitely wanted to get off to a good start," Pimentel said. "I wanted to show I made the right decision by transferring and I was capable of helping this program.

"It has been a long journey. There were plenty of times when it was easy to get down on myself. But I kept pushing. I kept thinking it would finally be my time and I could show what I could do."

Pimentel is showing everyone now.

Heís suddenly a fixture at the top of UTís rotation.

"The biggest key is having confidence," Pimentel said. "It never seemed to happen at UM. I knew I had it in my back pocket, but I wasnít able to show it there for some reason. Now I get to show it and help my team win. Iím still the pitcher I was back in the day."

Whatís next?

"Of course, I would love to be drafted and have the chance to play professional baseball," Pimentel said. "My confidence right now is through the roof and thatís something I didnít have in my earlier college years.

"Really, I just want to keep competing with my teammates and try to win a national championship. Everything is in a good place for me right now. Getting drafted would be a plus. It has been a long journey for me. But everything else thatís going on right now is making me very happy."