Plum grad overcomes injury to excel on mound with Louisiana Tech
Richie Navari pitched 9 1⁄3 innings on Saturday in Louisiana Tech's Conference USA and season finale at Rice, ranked 14th in the nation.
The Plum graduate left the mound in the bottom of the 10th with one out and the score tied at 3.
As he walked to the Tech dugout, he received a standing ovation from the fans of both the Bulldogs and Owls.
Navari also received an ovation from the Rice players after giving up seven hits, three walks and three earned runs while striking out four.
He threw 125 pitches and earned a no decision.
Later in the inning, Rice touched up a Louisiana Tech reliever for a couple of hits and the game-winning run.
“It was an unbelievable feeling coming off the mound,” Navari said.
“It was my final collegiate start, and I wanted to make it a good one. I felt really good, and it was an honor to throw in front of everyone that day.”
Head coach Wade Simoneaux was impressed, but not surprised, by Navari's performance.
“The day before, I asked him what kind of pitch count he wanted on him. He said, ‘How about 300?' I told him we would, but if he gets to 300 pitches, the score probably wasn't going to be in our favor. When I went out there to pull him, I and every one of the infielders gave him a big bear hug and thanked him. It was such an emotional moment. We knew what it was all about and what he had gone through.”
Navari became the ace and workhorse of the Bulldogs staff this spring, as he went 5-6 in 13 starts and one relief appearance for Louisiana Tech, which went 15-35 overall and 5-25 in conference USA.
He led the team in wins (5), ERA (2.23) and innings pitched (96.2) and struck out 51 against 29 walks.
Navari posted strong numbers this season after rehabbing from arm surgery in the offseason.
Last year was his first season with Louisiana Tech after two seasons at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona.
He went 1-6 in a starting role before being sent to the bullpen.
Navari rehabbed until the start of practice in January and was inserted into the starting rotation.
In the first complete-game performance of his collegiate career, he threw a four-hitter to help lead the Bulldogs to a 5-2 win over Conference USA foe Tulane for the team's first win as a first-year member of the league.
“I felt good all year, and I was blessed to have the season I had,” Navari said.
Simoneaux said Navari really worked hard to get back and had a great attitude through it all.
“Richie was such an inspiration to his teammates and a great role model for the younger players,” Simoneaux said.
“He had some great wins for us and was right there in games where we didn't score a lot of runs for him. He had a great season.”
Two weeks ago, Navari received news that he is one of 80 collegiate baseball players named to the watch list for the 2014 Gregg Olson Award which honors college baseball's “Breakout Player of the Year.”
The award is given to players who have elevated their game through hard work, strength of mind and determination throughout the 2014 season.
The award is named after former Auburn Tigers star pitcher Gregg Olson, who became one of the top collegiate players in the nation after an initial season filled with only mixed success. He went on to become a two-time All-American, a first-round draft pick, American League Rookie of the Year and a Major League Baseball all-star.
The semifinalists are slated to be named on May 30 at the start of NCAA Regional play, and the finalists are scheduled to be announced on June 6 at the start of Super Regional action.
The winner will be named in Omaha, Neb., during the College World Series from June 14 to 25.
“It's an honor just to be in the top 80,” Navari said.
“A lot of hard work went into this year. I am humbled and blessed to be considered for this award.”
Navari hopes to possibly get a chance at the next level and hopes to hear his name at some point during next month's Major League Baseball first-year player draft.
“I hope somebody will take a chance on me,” Navari said.
“I put myself in a good position at Rice. There were a ton of scouts there. I put myself in the best position I could to continue my career. I felt so good this season, and I hope to keep it going somewhere.”