By Joseph Schutz
Senior left-handed pitcher Trenton Shelton switched from a relief pitcher to a starter this season.
As Cal Poly's Saturday starter at the beginning of the season and now the Friday night starter, Shelton has made 10 appearances, struck out 58 batters, given up 71 hits, 18 runs and has a 3.36 ERA following last week's five-hit shutout against Hawai'i in Honolulu.
Shelton transferred to Cal Poly after his sophomore season at Oregon State and redshirted during his first year in San Luis Obispo. As a junior, he made 28 appearances out of the bullpen, gave up 35 hits, 13 runs and accumulated a 2.30 ERA.
Shelton is a communication studies major and was named to the Big West Spring All-Academic Team last season.
The learning curve for Shelton is big, and he believes his game has improved tremendously.
"I think I've progressed the way I wanted," said Shelton. "The coaches have been great especially and the teammates with a lot of good advice."
Mentality and mechanics have been Shelton's two main focuses of improvement: "I'm using my lower half a lot more. I'm being more aggressive and using all parts of my body more going toward home plate."
The fact that Shelton was a relief pitcher before becoming a starter has also helped his game, especially in high-pressure situations.
"If I get into a jam now as a starter with runners on first and third, I pretend that I'm a reliever coming into the game and getting one or two outs."
The 6-4, 204-pound left-handed senior has a height advantage on most batters: "Some hitters can easily read the ball coming out of the pitcher's hands. For me, I want to make sure when they see the ball coming out of my hand, they don't know what pitch is coming."
Deception is huge for Shelton since he doesn't have the fastest arm, and he relies on his slider to throw off batters. Other pitches that Shelton relies on are his changeup and two-seam fastball. He brought the two-seam back this season with the help of pitching coach Chal Fanning.
"We watch different videos and work on it in the bullpen every week," said Shelton. "We work on different grips, different release points."
Shelton's usage has increased significantly this season. In just 10 games this season, he has 58 strikeouts compared to 28 games and 42 strikeouts last season. Since his usage increased, his recovery process increased as well. After starting a game, Shelton starts his two-day recovery process.
"Right afterward, I do a drill with three baseballs in each hand to work on shoulder recovery and some band work also to make sure to use the blood circulation to get my muscles recovered," he said.
The next day, the process continues. Shelton said, "The next day usually I get in the pool with our trainer Neal Mc Ivor and I'll try to get a lift in. I'll do a recovery run for 15 or 20 minutes too. I also like to do the long toss the next day, throwing one hundred or two hundred feet."
Shelton enjoys every moment he spends with the Cal Poly baseball program, even when he is in recovery or on the road: "You're always looking forward to being on the field with all of your friends. All the guys have seriously made the past three years the best time of my life."
Shelton loves the chemistry on the team and believes it leads to their success.
"Everyone has similar personalities and loves being here and working hard. We all get along well and have great comraderie."
Choosing to live with baseball players was a good choice for Shelton. He can hit up anyone on the team whenever to hang out, and living with guys like Josh George has made that easier.
Last year, Shelton lived with six fraternity guys who all had Krukow's Klubhouse season tickets. It was a bit of a distraction when trying to warm up in the bullpen.
"I would come in during the seventh or eighth or ninth inning," said Shelton. "Krukow's was already shut down but they already had the damage done. They were always yelling at me when I was trying to get focused in the bullpen."
Although he was distracted, he understands the importance of a loyal fan base and appreciates Krukow's for what it is.
Another important part of Shelton's life is his friendship with head coach Larry Lee. Last season, all Shelton wanted was a hug, but Lee wouldn't give in. After a great game against UC Santa Barbara, however, things were different.
"Afterward, he said, 'Trent you did an okay job.' So I put out my hands to give him a hug and he finally smiled and gave me a hug and everyone went crazy. That's one of my favorite memories because nobody ever gives Coach Lee a hug."
Joseph Schutz is a senior journalism major from Sacramento, Calif.
Photos of Trent Shelton courtesy of Jack Duffy