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McKenzie hurls gem in state title game

By: Matt Long
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Jeff McKenzie hadn’t pitched much all season. The 2009 Oak Ridge graduate threw four games in relief and hadn’t toed the rubber for Delta College in more than a month when his pitching coach told him he was starting on the hill in the team’s biggest game of the season. Having defeated Ohlone 5-3 earlier in the day, Delta College had to beat them again to win the California Community College Athletic Association State Championship on May 22. “I thought I’d be playing centerfield, which is where I played all season,” McKenzie said. “It took awhile for it to sink in, but then I was like ‘wow, ok.’ I was really excited and ready to take the mound and show what I can do.” Delta manager Reed Peters and pitching coach Denny Peterson knew the day before that McKenzie would be on the mound had the Mustangs won the first game. “The night before we were discussing what we were going to do and Denny suggested that Jeff be the guy to throw,” Peters said. “He’s the guy we wanted on the mound. We knew he was capable of getting the job done. We didn’t know he’d give us nine innings, though.” McKenzie, who throws a fastball, curve, change up and knuckleball, felt good warming up, as he was able to control and locate all four pitches. He went out and pitched a gem under the biggest of pressure situations, allowing one unearned run on seven hits and three walks, while striking out seven with four pick-offs of runners on first base. “I was pretty confident because I knew I could pitch,” McKenzie said. “The last time I started a game was for my American Legion team last summer and I threw complete games all the time for them. It was just awhile since I had done it.” Peters added, “Jeff had good command and was throwing his fastball for strikes on both sides of the plate. His change-up and breaking ball were working too and he got a lot of ground balls.” And for his pick-off move? “My dad taught me the move and I’ve been developing it over the years,” McKenzie said. “They had never seen it. I usually pick off one guy, maybe two, during a game, but never four.” For his efforts, McKenzie was named the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament. On top of his performance on the mound, McKenzie hit .240 over the 11 games of the tournament, finishing with six hits, seven runs scored and seven RBIs. “I was on top of my game,” McKenzie said. “I hit the ball pretty well during the tournament.” Having completed his sophomore year at Delta, McKenzie is searching for a school to attend in the fall. He’s unsure will he will go but plans on playing baseball wherever he ends up.