Evan Gravenmier shines versus American River College in first collegiate start


Aaron Tolentino

Pitcher Evan Gravenmier during his start against American River College in Pleasant Hill on April 13, 2018.

Aaron Tolentino, Sports editor

It was on short notice, but Diablo Valley College pitcher Evan Gravenmier made the most of his opportunity.

Gravenmier found out the night before he was going to get his first-ever collegiate start on the mound against American River College.

That proved to be plenty enough time to mentally prepare as Gravenmier went six solid innings, allowing one run, in the Vikings’ 6-2 victory over ARC Friday afternoon in Pleasant Hill.

Pitcher Mike Manley was originally the scheduled starter, but after feeling under the weather the day before, he was brought out of the bullpen in relief of Gravenmier for a short three-inning outing instead.

The key for the Vikings was to get ahead early.

Third baseman Nick Simmons hit an RBI single in the first inning to give DVC the early 2-0 lead.

“The whole series we were playing a little catch-up with (ARC), had the lead very few times,” Simmons said. “It was important for us to come out the first inning, go ahead by two runs, so it was big to give our starting pitcher.”

Simmons stood out with two hits and a team-leading two RBIs as well.

Getting a lead early puts less pressure on an already thin Vikings’ pitching staff. Gravenmier was able to pitch with more confidence knowing he doesn’t have to be perfect on the mound.

“It gives a pitcher a lot of confidence when I go back on the mound and knowing that I can just do my job,” said Gravenmier. “My defense and my offense had my back, ultimate confidence out there knowing you can throw a first-pitch strike when your offense picks you up like that.”

Gravenmier, a usual reliever, going six innings for the Vikings was more than what they could have asked for. Too many games in the past had starting pitchers not go deep into games, forcing head coach Steve Ward to use his bullpen early.

Ward also did not have to succumb to putting position players on the mound when he runs out of relievers.

“It’s always good to save our bullpen,” said Gravenmier. “We don’t have many arms but when we do throw good, it’s good to give everyone a rest.”

Freshman designated hitter Johnnie Conner IV got the first hit of his college career, a triple in the second inning where he eventually scored on shortstop Jordan Williams’ RBI single.

“I couldn’t really feel (a triple) until the ball touched the ground,” said Conner IV. “Being able to help and pump the team up like that was huge for me.”

Conner IV made the most of his start today and added two runs scored.

The Vikings look to add to their winning momentum for a 2:30 p.m. matchup next Tuesday at Modesto Junior College.