Crunching the numbers

Lakeview grad LeMasters has strikeout marks at Lake Erie

Special to Tribune Chronicle / Lake Erie College Lakeview graduate David LeMasters has set a number of school pitching records for the Lake Erie College Storm in Painesville.

Numbers are a big part of baseball, and there haven’t been many figures that didn’t favor David LeMasters.

Strikeouts, earned run average, wins, whatever the category may be, LeMasters’ numbers are usually some of the best.

Oddly enough, there’s only one number that the right-hander from Cortland looks at: 1-on-1.

“It’s probably one of the best feelings of the game, just knowing that I’m going to battle this guy, physically and mentally,” said LeMasters of standing on the mound and facing a batter. “The way I see it is, at most, he has a 30-percent chance of succeeding against me. The numbers are in my odds. I try to think that way, and hopefully I win.”

He usually does.

The former Lakeview High School star is now a standout at Lake Erie College in Painesville. Not surprisingly, his numbers are impressive.

The senior set the school record for career strikeouts earlier this season (239 and counting). The previous record was 162 by Adam Beach, and LeMasters still has quite a few games to go. He also tied the single-game strikeout record with 14 punchouts in a February matchup with Lock Haven, and he has the single-season strikeout record (75, a mark he’ll likely break this year).

Now in his final season, LeMasters is 5-1 and owns a 2.89 ERA with 60 Ks in 46 2/3 innings thus far. The 6-foot, 190-pound LeMasters throws in the low 90s (topping out at 95 mph), but it’s his control and demeanor on the mound that Lake Erie coach Ray Skjold said sets him apart.

“He spots all of his pitches really well — change-up, cutter, fastball,” Skjold said. “He’s a control pitcher. He lives on the corners, and he just knows how to pitch. He knows when to get guys to chase when he’s ahead in the count and knows when he needs that pitch, that get-me-over offspeed, when he’s facing those elite hitters who are sitting on a fastball.”

While LeMasters’ success hasn’t transformed the Storm into a consistent winner, there is progress.

Lake Erie was picked to finish 11th in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, but the Storm (16-20, 9-11) are battling to claim the final spot in the conference tournament (the top eight teams qualify).

When LeMasters’ time with Lake Erie is over, he hopes his playing career is not. While he has a bachelor’s degree in finance and will soon own a master’s in business administration, his love for the game is too strong to give up on a dream.

“The goal obviously because I love the game of baseball is to just keep on trying, make it to the next level,” LeMasters said.

Skjold believes he’s capable of such a feat.

While Skjold is in his first year with the Storm, he was an assistant at Ball State University and Fairleigh Dickinson University, both Division I programs, and helped lead 10 players to the professional level.

“I do think he has that ability,” he said. “I have been in contact with scouts about him. As long as he keeps going out there and does his job, eventually people will take notice to who he is. He’s already drawn some interest, but hopefully as the season continues here, he’ll draw even more interest.”

Regardless, LeMasters is going to enjoy his time on the mound while it lasts.

The rush of going head-to-head with a pitcher started at Lakeview, where LeMasters also holds the career strikeout record (253). The 2014 grad remembers glaring down at home plate, savoring the moment and always feeling like he had the upper hand.

It’s the part of the game that gives him the “greatest feeling,” and it’s something Skjold noticed the first day the two met.

“He was a little quiet. He was a little reserved,” he recalled. “But when he gets on the mound, he’s a totally different person. You can just see it light up in his eyes and his face. I remember the first day I saw him throw a bullpen indoors. It was like a totally different guy. He was so confident and in total control when he was on that mound. You see it often when you’re watching him pitch in a game.”

Lake Erie may not be the last time he gets to see it.