At LIU Post this spring, it’s pick your poison.
On the one hand, you have Jake DeCarli, the finesse specialist from Higganum, Connecticut, who used his off-speed arsenal to post eye-popping numbers last season and was named ECC preseason pitcher of the year. On the other, you have Dan Jagiello, the hard-throwing righthander from West Islip who hit 96 mph in Cape Cod last summer and was named the No. 3 Division II draft prospect by Perfect Game USA.
Together, the junior pitchers — along with redshirt senior Joey Arena -- anchor LIU Post’s top of the rotation
“From a hitter’s standpoint,” Jagiello said, “seeing opposite sides of the spectrum is definitely hard to adjust to.”
DeCarli, who doesn’t throw harder than mid-80s, was named ECC pitcher of the year in 2015. He went 6-1 and led the ECC with a 0.76 ERA — the second-lowest single-season ERA in LIU Post history (Steve Drummond, 0.61 in 1965). He also held opponents to a .148 batting average
“I don’t overpower guys,” DeCarli said, “but everything I throw moves.”
On March 7, DeCarli threw a four-hitter in a 3-1 win against Nyack College. He allowed one earned run and had 12 strikeouts with only one walk.
“The ball comes out of his hand — no matter what pitch he’s throwing -- from the same slot with the same arm speed, so it’s very difficult to pick up,” coach Mike Gaffney said. “He’s by far the most deceptive pitcher that you’ll see out here at this level.”
Added pitching coach Bobby DeMichael: “It’s almost impossible to square him up so you get a lot of weak contact, a lot of groundballs. He’s a master at getting guys off balance.”
Jagiello was made a starter as a sophomore after spending his freshman season coming out of the bullpen. He went 5-3 and struck out a team-high 61 in 57 2/3 innings. He struck out at least six batters in eight of his 11 appearances.
“Working one inning and working seven innings is a completely different ballgame,” Jagiello said. “I definitely adjusted as the year went on. I would gently work up my pitch count and got used to going deeper into games.”
Jagiello threw seven innings of one-run ball in a 6-1 win against Bloomfield College on Thursday. He allowed five hits and two walks and struck out nine.
“Dan’s really built up his arm strength,” DeCarli said. “He’s been able to work deeper into games. He’s definitely become more intimidating on the mound.”
Added DeMichael: “Right now, his fastball’s going to get him by, but if he wants to get to the next level, the off-speed stuff has to come around, and that’s been his main focus. He’s another guy who just works and works and works until he’s going to get it right.
“This year we’re already seeing improvement in his slider. And his changeup, you can see he’s a little more confortable throwing it and he’s being able to command it.”
Joining DeCarli and Jagiello is Arena, who saw action in one game last year before suffering a season-ending injury. In 2014, he made 10 starts for the Pioneers and had a 1.75 ERA.
“We’re going to be relying on those three guys a lot this year,” Gaffney said. “The way they go about their business in practice, they bring the same intensity every single day. They don’t take a drill off or a play off. That’s a great example for the younger guys we have.”
The Pioneers’ top guns put them in position to return to the ECC tournament, where they won their first tournament game since 2010 last year.
“Before coming here, I had never been on a losing program before,” DeCarli said. “My freshman year was kind of a shock. And then last year we got back into the playoff mix and that’s where we want to be. That’s why we’re here. We want to win a championship.”