DAVIDSON, NC — If there’s one thing the St. John’s Prep baseball program’s notorious for, it’s producing players who are ready to succeed at the collegiate level. Davidson University pitcher Evan Roberts is another example of a Prep product seeing his talents translate on the college diamond.
Roberts, a senior left-hander, has emerged as one of the key pieces to Division I Davidson’s starting rotation. In four starts this season, Roberts has tossed 26 innings while tallying 19 strikeouts and allowing just two walks. The Newburyport native is 2-1 with a 2.77 ERA.
“So far, so good,” Roberts said of his start to the 2018 season. “Coach (Dick) Cooke and (catcher) Eric Jones have done a great job with gameplanning for me. I have all the trust in the defense behind me and Eric at catcher. It’s been a great start and I’m trying to keep that confidence moving forward. My goal now is to bring as much enthusiasm as I can to bring us a win every time I’m on the mound.”
The Wildcats are off a 9-5 start this season. Davidson’s pitching has been a big part of the team’s solid start as the Wildcats hurlers have combined for a 2.69 ERA. Not to be outdone, the Davidson bats have teamed up for a .271 team batting average.
“In our victories, we’ve been able to play well-rounded baseball and make clutch plays when we needed to,” Roberts, a team captain this year, said. “The pitching staff has trusted the defense to make plays when it needs to. We’ve gotten big plays from a lot of our players. We come into games with the mindset that we’re going to win and we do anything possible to make that happen.”
Last season, Roberts took a major step forward in earning a starting role on Davidson’s rotation. He made 21 appearances, 13 starts, and went 4-1 with 51 strikeouts in 84 innings of work. Roberts helped the Wildcats to a 35-26 record and an Atlantic 10 Tournament championship. Davidson fell in the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament after a two-game sweep to Texas A&M.
“Everything just kind of came together at the right time,” Roberts, an English major, said. “We were able to make clutch plays when we needed to. We clicked at the right moment. We got that feeling in the A10 Tournament. We didn’t fear adversity, we trusted one another and it was able to culminate into a pretty good season.”
After a solid 2017 campaign for both Roberts individually and for the team, the expectations are high riding into the 2018 season.
“We’re just trying to stay as focused and positive as we can throughout the season,” Roberts said. “We want to stay focused on every inning. This is Coach Cooke’s last season so we’re looking to stay as motivated as possible while having fun. We’re trying to right all our failures and become as well-rounded a team as possible.
“I’m a senior captain so I’m trying to make sure everyone’s oriented and on the same page,” Roberts added. “My job’s to make sure everyone’s working hard every day in practice. On the mound my goal is to eat up as many inning as I can and give it my all for my final go-round.”
Roberts feels Davidson can reach similar success this year if the Wildcats continue to play well-rounded baseball. He’s also confident that depth will play in the team’s favor, especially when Davidson’s pitching or hitting falls into an off-night.
“I think our well-roundedness and being a team that can overcome adversity are our biggest strengths,” Roberts said. “If our pitching is having an off day, the offense steps us. We’re a team to be reckoned with because of how deep we are at each position.”
The success Roberts is seeing at Davidson, he noted, wouldn’t have been possible without the experience he gained while pitching at St. John’s. Under coaches Pat Yanchus and Dan Letarte, Roberts, a 2014 St. John’s graduate, was pushed to reach his full potential while being handed the ball against top-notch competition.
“I think coach Coach Yanchus and Coach Letarte did a job making sure we all knew what the stakes were and making sure we were facing some of the best competition in Massachusetts,” Roberts said. “Playing for St. John’s Prep is a privilege. You want to earn all the innings you can. Wanting to earn that playing time is a big step. It builds enthusiasm in your game. Carrying that Davidson was huge for me. It taught me how to compete the right way.”