- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2007

One of the reasons Cory VanAllen went to Baylor was for a chance to play in the College World Series, but he probably didn’t know exactly how much he would be responsible for it.

VanAllen took the ball in Game 3 of Baylor’s 2005 super regional series with Clemson. Then a sophomore from Sugar Land, Texas, VanAllen allowed one run in six innings and was the winning pitcher in a game that sent the Bears to Omaha, Neb., for the first time in 27 years.

“Up to that point it was definitely the biggest game of my career and I had a blast with it,” VanAllen said. “That is something that I will always remember no matter where I go with my career. I loved every minute of it.”

Baylor’s bid to return to the College World Series last season was stopped by Rice in the regionals, but three days later the Washington Nationals selected VanAllen in the fifth round of the draft. The 6-foot-3 left-hander was the first college player picked by the Nationals after they opened with six straight high school products.

After missing the start of this season when a cut on his right foot required seven stitches, VanAllen has settled into a spot in Class A Hagerstown’s starting rotation. He had a rough outing Wednesday that was compounded by substandard defense, but for the season VanAllen is 0-2 with a 3.42 ERA in five starts.

“I feel like my arm is strong and my velocity is up there where I want it to be,” VanAllen said. “Mechanically, I feel pretty sound to where I can repeat everything and if I mess up on a pitch I can step off the mound real quick and pinpoint it then get back and make an adjustment with the next pitch.”

He has been anywhere from dominant (six shutout innings one start, 12 strikeouts in five innings in another) to inconsistent (unable to finish four innings in two starts). The 12 strikeouts April 28 against Delmarva inflate his total of 26 punchouts in 232/3 innings, but one constant has been his control. VanAllen has yielded only one walk this season.

“I don’t really think I am a strikeout pitcher,” VanAllen said. “That was certainly a plus, but I’ll take outs however I can get them.”

VanAllen’s best pitches are his change-up and his fastball, which he can get into the low 90s when needed. The third option has been a work in progress for a while now. He threw a curveball in high school but switched to a slider in college.

After the Nationals drafted him, VanAllen went back to the curve while making 13 appearances for short-season Class A Vermont, and this season he continues to focus on developing it with Suns pitching coach Paul Menhart.

“A curveball is definitely the main side project right now,” VanAllen said. “It is definitely a feel pitch. I am just working on getting more consistent with it. I think once I nail that pitch down things will be pretty good.”

Added Bob Boone, Washington’s assistant general manager and vice president of player development: “He’s going to need one of them. He cuts the fastball like a slider, so he needs something to work off of that. We really like him. He gets hitters out, and we think he can do it at a high level.”

VanAllen was always highly thought of as an amateur. The Los Angeles Dodgers took him in the third round of the 2003 draft as a senior in high school. When he honored his commitment to Baylor, he was the third-highest pick to not sign. The other two, pitcher Andrew Miller and outfielder Drew Stubbs, went to school and ended up being top-10 picks last June.

“It was tough. To be honest I was pretty set on signing out of high school,” VanAllen said. “But talking with my parents, they felt like I needed to take the extra three years and go the college route to mature mentally and physically. I didn’t want to. As a senior in high school, you think you know everything and I was pretty stubborn about it. I ended up going with what my parents wanted and I don’t regret it. I don’t think you can put a price on having three years of college out of the way and everything that I went through there like beating Clemson and going to Omaha.”

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