Pitcher Colella makes his mark at Pine-Richland
Marcus Colella has thrown thousands of pitches, but he first began pitching to his dad in their backyard batting cage eight years ago.
“It was pretty natural,” Colella said. “My dad threw at Cornell and Geneva, and learning from him and being able to pitch well early on made me want to pitch that much more.”
Aside from an innate ability to get batters out, as evidenced by his senior-year 1.00 ERA for Pine-Richland, Colella also inherited his dad's work ethic.
“My dad is one of the hardest workers I know.” Colella said. “He always says that he's not as smart as me, but he went to an Ivy League school and spent so much time studying and I think I learned how to push myself from him.”
That's partly why Colella, who has a four-year 4.60 GPA, is an ace in the classroom as much as he is on the mound despite being ill during the second half of his junior year.
That same illness, which went undiagnosed, hampered Colella's development as a pitcher during his junior season.
“He lost all kind of weight, was having trouble with headaches and couldn't come to school,” Pine-Richland coach Kurt Wolfe said. “He missed a lot of offseason practices and got thrown into the season needing to be one of our starting pitchers without much preparation.”
Colella's first varsity start in his junior season was against baseball powerhouse North Allegheny, a game the Rams won, 6-1.
“I threw all three of my pitches for strikes, but I lost that the rest of my junior year,” Colella said. “The memory of that game motivated me to do what I'm capable of this season.”
Colella also became determined to be a team leader.
“I thought we were playing for our own selves instead of each other my junior year,” Colella said. “That really drove me to have a team that worked together for a common goal rather than individual goals.”
Colella's growing maturity was combined with guidance from Pine-Richland's new pitching coach, Nate Buttenfield, a former minor league pitcher.
“There were question marks with Marcus' mental approach, but his confidence really came out with what we did in the offseason to train,” Buttenfield said.
Colella credits Buttenfield for his newfound poise on the mound.
“Last year it was evident that when something went wrong I got down on myself, and things would pile on,” Colella said. “Coach Buttenfield worked with me on understanding that every pitch is a new pitch, and it doesn't matter what happened before — whether someone just hit a home run or if you struck someone out.”
Buttenfield also emphasized to his pitching staff the importance of following a weekly regimen, a new concept to Rams pitchers.
“This was the first time pitchers had a real routine to follow, because we didn't have a coach primarily dedicated to pitchers before this season,” Marcus said.
Buttenfield's workouts strengthened Colella physically, which is one reason he pitched a complete game in each of his senior starts.
“My coaches can trust that in my 120th pitch I'm still good enough to get the next out, because I conditioned myself to finish games in the seventh inning,” Colella said.
Another reason Colella completed every start this season was because his strikeouts dropped from 45 to 24.
“He pitched a lot more to contact this season than last season and put a lot of faith in his teammates to make plays,” Wolfe said. “It paid off.”
Colella also began going to other teams' games to study opposing batters.
“Seeing what they could hit made a big difference in how I approached individual batters, because I could see what pitches they couldn't hit and how aggressive they were,” Colella said.
Colella throws a fastball, slider and split-finger changeup.
“When his changeup is on, and it usually is, it's very unhittable,” Buttenfield said.
It's the same changeup his dad taught him in their backyard batting cage.
Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer.