Kansas-bound, locally renowned

DVC’s ace ties all-time school record of three shutouts in a season after besting Sac State


Andrew Barber

Pitcher Ben Krauth of Diablo Valley College pitched eight innings, allowing one earned run in a win over Cosumnes River on Tuesday April 8, 2014. Final score 3-1 in Pleasant Hill.

Gabriel Agurcia, Correspondent

DVC baseball is enjoying a renaissance season. Coming off of a 2013 campaign mired by a stagnant offense and inconsistent overall play, the Vikings have returned to competitive form, compiling a 19-11 (7-8) record, as of Monday, April 14.

While the team has improved as a whole, they are led by their most outstanding player, pitcher Ben Krauth.

Krauth pitched very well last season, but he has stepped up to an elite level this season. In all of California community college baseball, he ranks fifth in ERA (0.65), tied for fourth in with eight wins, tied for first in complete games, second in innings pitched at 83 and two-thirds and first in strikeouts with 96.

What makes that minuscule 0.65 ERA all the more impressive is that of the four pitchers ahead of him, none of them have started more than seven games or pitched more than 43 innings. Krauth has started 11 games and pitched nearly 84 innings.

What exactly sparked this vast improvement in his game?

“Coach Ward called me into his office last year at the end of the season, and told me that I needed to gain some weight, needed to get stronger,” Krauth said. “He told me to try to gain 25 pounds. He hooked me up with a trainer at Forma Gym in Walnut Creek, named Kevin Art. He really helped me a lot. (The weight gain) helped velocity, my off-speed stuff got better, and everything fed off that.”

Krauth has built a solid repertoire of pitches, consisting of a two-seam fastball, change-up, 12-6 curveball and slider.

But his best pitch is by far his change-up.

“I used to throw a circle change. Sometimes I go through phases where I can’t throw it, so I have to have a backup. Right now I’m throwing a split change-up. It has a little more movement, a little more deception to it. And I throw it off the same grip as my two-seam fastball, so it does basically the same thing, just a little slower.”

“For full count, two outs, I’ll go to my change-up. It’s my go-to pitch.”

Close friend and teammate outfielder Davis Strong said of the pitch, “His change-up is the best pitch I have ever faced. It can get hitters to swing and miss on it even if they know it is coming.”

The tangibles and stats are all quite astounding, but  when speaking to fellow Viking players, it seemed to be a consensus that it’s what can’t be seen that separates Krauth.

“As a pitcher, confidence is a huge factor in being successful,” stated pitcher Ronnie Lacour. “His confidence has given him the ability to command all four pitches for strikes and get in a rhythm that hitters have a very hard time keeping up with.”

Pitcher Nate Simmons said that his composure is very impressive.

“He could walk the bases loaded and it wouldn’t phase him,” he said. “He’s a rock out there. He makes his pitches whether we are winning or losing, and whether he’s doing good or bad.”

Strong added, “He’s improved the most in the way he mentally carries himself. He knows that every time he gets up on the mound that he’s going to beat the other team, and it shows. He also now uses his mind to get batters out, and he prides himself on simply outsmarting the hitters he faces.”

Krauth has merged his physical and mental abilities to create a dominating form. He is arguably the best starting pitcher throughout California community colleges. He has received and accepted a scholarship offer to Kansas University, where he will be this coming Fall.

You may think that a player with a talent level such as his would talk himself up, but Krauth deflected all praise to his teammates, especially catcher Luke Van Holten.

“He puts the sign down and I throw it,” Krauth said. “I trust him, he trusts me. I always talk to him in between innings, what’s working, what’s not. We’re pretty much on the same page at all times. I love it. He’s probably the best catcher I’ve ever thrown to.”

That team-first attitude has caused his teammates to put their complete faith in him when he toes the rubber. He leads more by example than by sound waves.

“I like to think those guys look up to me on the field,” Krauth admitted. “I’m not much of a vocal guy. I’ll talk if I need to, but I feel like I’m more of a captain on the field than off the field. Guys look to me for how I play, not necessarily for how I act.”

“He has a casual intensity,” said Simmons. “I think most of the team has a strong belief that when Ben pitches, we win. It’s as simple as that.”