David R. Jennings
WESTMINSTER — Maybe the happiest person that Lucas Gilbreath has decided where to play his collegiate baseball is his mailman.
The coveted southpaw from Legacy ended all of the speculation last week with his selection to play for coach John Anderson and the Minnesota Golden Gophers. He will make it official on Wednesday at a signing ceremony at the school.
“The biggest thing for me was probably the coaching staff,” said Gilbreath, who was an all-conference selection last spring as a junior. “Obviously Big 10 baseball is a great conference and they have a great engineering program, but what sold it for me was the coaching staff.”
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Gilbreath went 4-2, including three complete games last year for coach Ty Giordano’s Lightning team. He had 93 strikeouts in 48 innings pitched. Gilbreath’s repertoire includes a fastball that touches the upper-80’s on the radar gun, a power curveball with great tilt and depth and an improving change-up.
It’s a dossier that will only get better with added strength and repetition this spring.
“We’ve been working to make his repeater a little bit greater,” Giordano said. “We’ve been working on the change-up and locating the fastball, between throwing two-seamers and four-seamers. He throws his breaking pitch at two different speeds too, and I think there is a lot of opportunity for him to broaden his abilities.”
The arduous recruiting process required Gilbreath and his family to literally sit down and make a chart of the pros and cons of every school that he liked. It ultimately came down to the Golden Gophers and the University of New Mexico.
“It was kind of tough to narrow it down and trying to figure out, well ‘I like this about this school’, and I had to make that chart to figure out which ones I really liked,” said Gilbreath, an avid outdoorsman who will have all the fishing holes he needs in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. “Minnesota is one of the tops in the country (for engineering), and a degree is the most important thing.”
The Gophers finished fourth in the Big 10 last season with a 13-8 mark inside the conference and were 32-22 overall. They lost to Nebraska in the Big 10 tournament at Target Field, the home of the Minnesota Twins. Playing time could come rather quickly when Gilbreath gets to Minneapolis too, as the Gophers only have two left-handed pitchers on their roster.
“They don’t guarantee anything as a coaching staff, but I think I am going to have a pretty good opportunity to come in a get some playing time, whether it’s as a reliever, a starter or a late inning kind of guy,” Gilbreath said.
That being said, he knows the college game is a whole different animal than high school and even American Legion ball in Colorado. And he knows the things he has to work on to play Division 1 baseball.
“Mentally, I’m going to have to adjust to how good some of these hitters are going to be because these aren’t your average high school guys that are going to be playing in the Big 10,” said Gilbreath, a two-time participant in the Rockies Futures Game at Coors Field. “I also need to work at commanding my fastball.”
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