WATERTOWN — Once one of the top pitching prospects in the country when entering the collegiate ranks last year, Mitch Sewald is on the road back to playing college ball, with Watertown his latest stop.
Sewald, who left Louisiana State University early in the spring semester, is looking at playing with the Watertown Rams this summer as a welcome and much-needed opportunity.
The lean and lanky right-hander hasn’t played competitively since last summer, when he pitched for the Lakeshore Chinooks of the Northwoods League, also a collegiate league.
He also hasn’t pitched in college since he was a freshman at LSU, but ultimately left the school because of “some personal stuff.”
“I was really, really excited when I learned I was going to be a starting pitching here,” the 20-year-old Sewald said. “I’m going to be starting hopefully when I go back to school, so I’m definitely just trying to get my work in up here and hopefully help out this team a little bit.”
Sewald is trying to make the most of his stay in Watertown in Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League play as he fired a complete game three-hitter — albeit the seven-inning doubleheader variety — in a 4-2 victory to complete the Rams’ sweep of a pair of games at Albany on Wednesday.
“It’s great opportunity,” said Sewald, who stands at 6-foot-6 and 195 pounds. “It’s a great opportunity to work on all the different pitches you have and get some work in ... it’s great to be here.”
The win, in which he allowed only an unearned run, struck out five and walked only one, was the first of the season for Sewald and also his first complete game at the collegiate level,
“That was my first complete game probably since high school,” said Sewald, a Texas native and a former standout at Archbishop Rummel High School in Louisiana. “So that was definitely a lot of fun. I felt really good out there.”
In his freshman season with LSU, Sewald made a pair of scoreless appearances in relief in 3 1/3 innings of work, then left school in his sophomore year during this past spring semester citing personal reasons.
Sewald was suspended for the first four games of the college baseball season by LSU after he was arrested in November for driving while intoxicated and reckless driving, according to a report in the The Times-Picayune newspaper.
“It was tough at first, but I think it was the right decision,” Sewald said of leaving LSU. “I like where I’m at right now, and I’m in a much better place than I was four or five months ago.”
Sewald wouldn’t elaborate further on what led him to leave the Southeastern Conference school, but said his “spirituality” helped him make it through those times.
“I am spiritual and I pray at lot,” he said. “With the personal stuff that was going on, that definitely helped out a lot.”
On his Twitter bio he writes: “Smiling bright through my struggles,” and he also includes a reference to the Bible.
“Faith is important to me,” he said.
Sewald is hoping a strong season with the Rams will help him in the long run in his return to the college game as he will attend LSU-Eunice next year.
“I was working out and lifting every day,” Sewald said of his layoff from baseball after he left LSU. “So I wasn’t really set-back at all, because I was lifting, running, staying in shape and throwing bullpen (sessions) when I could. So I came into this summer prepared.”
Watertown coach Paul Alteri is pleased to have Sewald in the fold this summer with the Rams and as a starting pitcher.
“When I talked to him back in the early spring I was like ‘come up here and let me help you,’” Alteri said of Sewald. “Get away from home a little bit, get up here and concentrate on baseball a little bit and he was all for it.”
Sewald is 1-2 in three starts with the Rams with a 2.84 ERA and heading into Watertown’s game at Newark on Sunday has registered a team-leading 17 strikeouts in 19 innings of work.
“I see him as a work in progress right now,” Alteri said of Sewald. “He’s picking it up quickly — I think he’s a pretty good student and he’s learning. He’s got a goal of getting back to the Division I ranks and right now and he has what it takes.”
Heading into Sunday’s game at Newark, Rams pitchers combined to toss three complete games in the team’s previous four outings, including Dalton D’Spain’s one-hit gem in a 13-0 victory at Elmira on Friday night.
On Wednesday night, Sean Rackoski of Kansas University went the distance over seven innings, scattering five hits and struck out six while not issuing a walk, in winning the first game of the doubleheader at Albany, 10-2.
Rackoski and D’Spain each recorded their first win with the Rams as well as their first complete games at the collegiate level.
“Mentally, these were huge lifts,” Alteri said. “I’m hoping now that the pitching staff with challenge one another with every start. Because we have the talent to do that, and we’ll ride the pitching staff, most definitely.”