Roadrunner pitcher almost called it quits before time at CSUB


By Peter Castillo


The easy-going nature of Naithen Dewsnap is not evident of the fierce competitor he is when he towers over opposing hitters on the mound.

The 22-year-old’s tall, lanky frame and long beard combined with his submarine arm angle has proven to give opposing hitters fits in his time at CSU Bakersfield.

However, pitching in Division I baseball is not something Dewsnap envisioned just a couple years ago. In fact, he was completely at ease with walking away from the game and had already set his sights on a career as an orthodontist.

The senior pitcher now finds himself with the realistic possibility of being drafted in next month’s MLB Draft.

“I try not to get my hopes up about stuff like that,” Dewsnap said. “If I do my job and the team plays well and everybody does their job, then all of that stuff will fall into place.”

Before his time as a record-setting closer and now starter for the Roadrunners, the 6-foot-4-inch pitcher had an inauspicious beginning to his baseball career.

A native of Norco, California, Dewsnap grew up playing both football and baseball.

“Growing up in So Cal was great,” said Dewsnap. “There’s a lot of good talent in all sports and you’re always competing at a really high level.”

After graduating from Norco High School in 2013, he did not receive any scholarship offers to play Division I baseball.

He initially decided to attend Fullerton College, however, after not receiving playing time, Dewsnap left the school.

Dewsnap then chose to take his talents to Chaffey College in nearby Rancho Cucamonga.

“I actually went to Chaffey as a favor,” Dewsnap said. “It was local, and after things didn’t work out for me at Fullerton, I knew they would give me a shot to play at Chaffey.”

In his two seasons at Chaffey, Dewsnap was experiencing little success on the mound, compiling an 0-4 record and earned run average north of 5.00.

During this time is when Dewsnap figured his time in baseball had run out.

Late in his sophomore year at Chaffey, Dewsnap made a career-altering change to his pitching mechanics, thanks to the help of former Chaffey head coach Jeff Harlow. 

Dewsnap was convinced to try giving a submarine arm angle a shot, instead of his traditional over-the-top delivery. He described it as a ‘why not?’ experiment.

“I had an outing where I pitched pretty bad and it was consistently happening,” said Dewsnap. “With my build, the coaches asked me to try it out and it ended up working out. It felt a lot better and more natural to me.”

The switch not only gave Dewsnap roughly 10 more miles per hour on his fastball but it improved his control and gave him more movement on his pitches.

“When I threw overhand, the reason for the lack of success was that I didn’t throw very hard,” Dewsnap said. “I was usually anywhere from 78 to 82 mph and when I went submarine I was around 87 to 88, which was a surprise to everyone.”

Senior pitcher Naithen Dewsnap leans over and peers in for a sign in a game at Matador Field against CSU Northridge on Tuesday, March 27. Photo by Roxana Flores/ The Runner

Dewsnap decided to stick with it and saw an improvement immediately.

In the summer following his sophomore season, Dewsnap was taking summer courses in order to transfer to UC Riverside where he had been in talks about a potential scholarship offer. However, his deal with UCR never came about.

He was also pitching in a summer league for college players. This was the first time CSUB head coach Jeremy Beard, who was the Roadrunner’s pitching coach at the time, saw Dewsnap pitch.

Beard recalls he was in the area to take a look at a catcher and was recommended by the coaches there to take a look at Dewsnap as well.

“I saw him and I thought ‘here’s this 6-foot-4-inch kid who’s all elbows and knees and throws from down low and was throwing in the upper 80s,” said Beard.

Bob Macaluso, the former head coach at CSUB, had reached out to Dewsnap and offered him a scholarship.

According to Dewsnap, CSUB was the only D-I school to have offered him a scholarship. He had offers from some D-II and D-III schools outside of California, but none which piqued his interest.

“When I dropped my arm angle, I was pretty much done with baseball and I was set on it,” Dewsnap said. “If I didn’t get the offer I wanted I was just going to stop playing. This was the one offer I got and it was in California, which was perfect to me. It’s been a blessing.”

Beard expressed excitement over Dewsnap receiving a scholarship to play at CSUB.

“He needed the money and he needed the scholarship,” said Beard. “I knew he’d work hard to be a contributor of some sort. I didn’t realize he was going to be as good as he is.”

Work ethic is what allowed Dewsnap to experience sustained success at the D-I level.

Dewsnap said he had always joked around with the idea he’d one day be pitching against Pac-12 Conference opponents. In his very first outing as a Roadrunner, those fantasies came true.

On opening day last season against the University of Utah, Dewsnap came out of the bullpen and earned the win in relief by striking out five in 2 2/3 innings of work.

“I had never really been in clutch situations like that and I was never really the go-to guy,” said Dewsnap. “It was all new to me but I know my preparation had got me where I needed to be.”

He continued that success on his way to setting the CSUB single-season record for saves with 14. He was named Second Team All-Western Athletic Conference following the season after he produced a 3-1 record with a 2.40 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings pitched last season.

In last year’s WAC tournament, Dewsnap threw six scoreless innings and added two saves. He was named to All-WAC Tournament Team for his efforts.

He was doing all this with a fastball which does not reach 90 mph. Dewsnap, or ‘Deuce’ as he is referred to by his teammates, features a two-seam fastball, a slider and a changeup in his arsenal.

Dewsnap would watch submarine pitcher Joe Smith, who currently pitches for the Houston Astros, as someone to model his delivery after. 

“When I dropped sub, I didn’t really know what I was doing,” said Dewsnap. “I would watch video of him and try to characterize what he does.”

Junior catcher Jake Ortega praised Dewsnap for his control and command of his pitches which allows him to be effective. In addition to playing together at CSUB, the two were also teammates in a summer league in Minnesota this past year.

“For a guy who throws submarine, he’s actually one of our most consistent guys as far as hitting spots,” Ortega said. “I feel like the majority of the time, I know exactly where his pitch is going to be.”

Ortega also credited Dewsnap for his role as a mentor for the younger pitchers on the team’s staff.

“He’s always out there talking to all the young pitchers and helping them anyway he can,” said Ortega. “He’s been that way ever since the first day he came in here, even as a junior college transfer. He’s been that leader and is always willing to help.”

Prior to this season, Dewsnap was named to the Preseason All-America Third Team as a relief pitcher by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, becoming the first Roadrunner to ever receive the honor.

He had continued success as the team’s closer this season as he had a 2.12 ERA and five saves in 12 appearances out of the bullpen this spring.

But midway through conference play this year, Beard decided to use him as a starter for the first time in his CSUB career on April 7 against New Mexico State University. He shut the Aggies out for five frames but ran into trouble in the sixth as he began to run out of gas. He threw a then career-high 83 pitches in the loss.

The choice to start Dewsnap was made out of necessity as the team’s starting pitchers had suffered a rash of injuries.

“With two of our better pitchers going down and giving some of our young guys opportunities and not seeing results right away, we needed someone to bridge that gap,” said Beard.

Sophomore pitcher Aaron Charles, the team’s Friday night starter at the start of the season, has suffered from a biceps injury which has plagued him throughout the spring. Also, junior pitcher Ben Cutting missed a month earlier this season with a forearm issue.

The choice to use Dewsnap as a starter was not a surprise to him as he had experience starting at Chaffey and has worked in extended roles out of the bullpen at CSUB.

“[Beard] had been hinting at it because of the lack of success our starters were having,” Dewsnap said. “I was OK with it. I just wanted to do anything to help the team win.”

The transition Dewsnap made from a closer to a Saturday night starter is not one which would have been possible if not for his selflessness as a player.

“Naithen exemplies what a Roadrunner baseball player is all about,” said Beard. “For him to be as successful as he’s been at this level is the same reason as why he’s having an easy adjustment to becoming a starter.”

Dewsnap has made four starts since his transition from the bullpen. He has a 5.63 ERA in 24 innings pitched as a starter.

He threw a career-high 116 pitches in seven innings to record his first win as a starter in a game on the road against Utah Valley University on April 14.

In his most recent start against Seattle University on April 28, Dewsnap showed rare control issues. He handed out five walks, hit a batter and threw 114 pitches in five innings. He gave up seven runs (four earned) and struck out four in the loss.

While the results may be mixed at this point, Dewsnap’s transition has allowed Beard more flexibility as far as who to use in certain situations. He also won’t rule out a return to the bullpen for Dewsnap.

“The nice thing about pitching him on Saturday is if we need him on Friday, we can start someone else on Saturday and bring him back as a reliever and continue his role as closer.”

Dewsnap’s transition may have opened some doors for him at the next level. 

Beard thinks he has a chance to become a professional pitcher as a reliever one day soon.

“His ability to pitch in the big leagues or not is going to be determined on a four to five miles an hour difference,” said Beard. “If he can get up to 90-plus consistently with his arm angle, he can pitch in the big leagues.”

Not bad for a guy who was on the cusp of giving up the game and pursuing a career in orthodontics.

Senior pitcher Naithen Dewsnap delivers a pitch in a game at Hardt Field against Sacramento State on Saturday, April 21.
Photo by Aaron Mills/ The Runner