By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- Jordan DeLorenzo understands the importance of having fun while playing sports.
If DeLorenzo isn't pitching for the Front Royal Cardinals, he can usually be found in the dugout making sure all the players are loose and not getting uptight.
"When I'm pitching, I'm always serious and I always want to win and do well," DeLorenzo said. "I still want to win when I'm not playing, but I'm a little more relaxed because it's like a break. I don't think it's good to always be uptight and stressed so much. You want to have that loose mentality.
"[Major Leaguer] Nick Swisher's an example. Nick Swisher is always loose and he plays the game hard. He's keeping the team loose."
DeLorenzo's personality is infectious to the rest of the team, and his teammates love the fact that he keeps them laughing.
"I love being around him," Front Royal catcher Garrett Flynn said of DeLorenzo's personality. "He's got something different every day. He's always riding people, but it's always jokes and it's just fun. It loosens it up. It keeps everyone on their toes and trying to get back at him -- it's fun."
There's no question that DeLorenzo is very valuable to the Cardinals as a pitcher. DeLorenzo leads the team with a 1.99 ERA. He has a 4-3 record, and has 54 strikeouts in 49.2 innings with only eight walks.
With each game, DeLorenzo has become more and more confident on the mound. He continues to get better, and has two complete games in his last four starts.
"There's a lot of good hitters in this league, but I'm always thinking, 'I can get you out,'" DeLorenzo said. "I've gotten a lot more confidence this summer. Hopefully it will carry over into my [college] season. If I can learn to be confident there, that will help our team."
Delorenzo plays at the University of West Florida, which is a Division II school. West Florida is usually one of the top programs in D-II, and won the national championship in 2011.
In his freshman year, he appeared in 18 games and had five starts with a 3.83 ERA and a 6-3 record. He had 53 strikeouts in 56.1 innings and made the All-Gulf South Conference second team.
Last year as a sophomore, DeLorenzo struggled a little bit, and didn't get as much playing time as he would have liked. It's one of the reasons he wanted to come to the Valley Baseball League.
DeLorenzo said West Florida had 16 pitchers last year, including a lot of seniors, which makes earning playing time a little harder.
"You always have to work for your job there," DeLorenzo said. "It's good but it's also sometimes discouraging, because if you don't do well you have to wait for someone else to mess up, and you don't really wish that upon someone."
This summer DeLorenzo has found his mojo again, and it's certainly helped that his college catcher is here with him. DeLorenzo, Flynn and Mike Tomlinson are all teammates at West Florida.
Flynn said it's been great catching for DeLorenzo this summer and seeing his improvement.
"Me and him just seem to click together with what pitches he wants to throw and what I want to call," Flynn said. "When you got something like that, you're a devastating combination. I think he's done real well for us this summer. I can't wait to get back to school and see what he can do."
DeLorenzo said he's been playing baseball since T-ball, and like most players his ultimate goal is to play in the Major Leagues.
He said he's always just loved the sport and the competitiveness that comes with it.
"I like pressure," DeLorenzo said. "I like having fans cheering and the pressure of being on the spot. That's why I like being a pitcher -- they have the most pressure."
DeLorenzo, who is from Winter Park, Fla. (just outside of Orlando) said he's enjoyed his time in Front Royal, which he called the smallest town he's ever been to.
The rising junior has been able to reach many of his goals for the summer, and said he wants to lead the league in strikeouts. He's currently second in the league.
The Cardinals are currently tied for fourth in the North Division. The top four make the playoffs.
The team has struggled some offensively, but the pitching staff, led by DeLorenzo, has been solid. The pitching staff has a 3.36 team ERA, which is fourth in the league. With one week left, DeLorenzo said he believes the team can finish the season strong and make a run in the playoffs.
"I think we should be able to make the playoffs," DeLorenzo said. "We get on these little runs where it seems like we can make it. If we just bring everything together, I think we can do well."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org