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Lowell Standout Heads to Pacific

May 3, 2017 | 0 Comments

From SF Gate.

The road to a college baseball scholarship is paved — in no particular order — with connections, genetics, good fortune and a lot of sweat.

When you play in the Academic Athletic Association, the need for all of those ingredients is amplified.

That’s why when Lowell senior Joe Solomon was offered and accepted a partial ride to the University of the Pacific over the weekend, it felt especially satisfying to all involved.

He will join three former AAA pitchers now pitching at the Division I level: Lowell alums Craig Colen (Cal Poly) and Elijah Saunders (Grambling State) and Galileo graduate Kyle Nelson (UC Santa Barbara).

“It’s really exciting to be a part of that group that actually gets to move on and keep playing,” Solomon said. “I just have to keep playing and working hard.”

A UOP assistant coach was at Big Rec on Thursday when Solomon, a 6-foot-2, 185-pounder, clinched Lowell’s regular-season title with a 6-2 complete-game victory over Washington. Solomon threw a five-hitter, struck out six, walked one and improved to 6-3 with a 1.66 ERA this season.

In his three-year career, he’s 19-6 with a 1.79 ERA and 157 strikeouts in 164 innings.

Solomon is trying to lead the Cardinals (20-6) to their fifth straight San Francisco Section championship. A semifinal playoff win Thursday would put Lowell into the final next Wednesday at AT&T Park.

Solomon dominated last year’s 6-3 title-game defeat of Balboa at AT&T, pitching a seven-hitter and picking up two hits and three RBIs. The bigger the stage, the better Solomon seemingly plays.

“I’m not going to lie, it was a little nerve-racking with my possible college coach sitting right behind home plate,” Solomon said. “I tried to just treat it like any other game. Honestly, I feel most comfortable when I’m on the mound and get into the zone.”

His scholarship hasn’t come by accident, said pitching coach Emil DeAndreis.

In the summer before his junior year, Solomon worked out — bright and early — with DeAndreis regularly. Solomon alternated between weight work, running and their favorite workout: pushing the coach’s car through city streets.

“I put the car in neutral and Joe gets behind and pushes as hard and fast as he can for 30 yards,” DeAndreis said. “It’s quite a workout. … I knew then Joe was a special breed. I don’t know many 16-year-olds dragging themselves out of bed every morning at 6 to push cars. This was something he truly wanted.”

DeAndreis knew the path it took. He had a successful career at Lowell, but got no offers until Hawaii-Hilo gave him one.

“It’s always been an uphill battle to get noticed in the AAA,” he said. “It’s getting better, for sure, but still Joe is a very competitive kid. He was fascinated with the process.”

It helped that Colen, who mentored Solomon as a sophomore, had succeeded and earned a scholarship to Cal Poly.

Increased velocity on his fastball — Solomon’s now in the 83-85 mph range — a good curve and slider and general command, along with excellent grades (better than a 4.0 GPA), clinched the scholarship.

“He’s a really competitive kid in the best kind of way,” DeAndreis said. “He’s a great teammate. He’s accountable and never makes excuses. His qualities have rubbed off on all the other kids. You wish you had 20 like him on every team.

“It’s all about getting an opportunity. The door is open for Joe. He’ll no doubt make the most of it.”