When Sequoia pitcher Kyle Cambron threw 123 pitches as he worked into the seventh inning of the season opener against Carlmont, it was just the beginning of a season that saw Cambron become the definition of “workhorse.”
That opening-day assignment set the tone for a season in which Cambron worked into at least six innings in all 14 of his starts while compiling an 11-2 record. He threw nine straight complete games to end the season, allowed just 15 earned runs for a 1.17 ERA, had a nearly 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and held the opposition to just a .217 batting average.
“It was pretty awesome,” Cambron said of his final high school season.
So awesome, in fact, his performance earns him the San Mateo Daily Journal’s Baseball Player of the Year honor.
“I’ve never had a pitcher win more than six games (in my five-year tenure). I certainly thought he could have a successful season,” said Sequoia manager Corey Uhalde. “He took his pitching to a higher level this year.”
None of Cambron’s growth as a pitcher, however, could not have without Cambron himself wanting to do it. Going into his senior year, Cambron revamped his pitching motion, added a couple of pitches to his arsenal and accepted his role as a pitcher.
Last season, he wanted to play the field when he wasn’t pitching. He tossed that attitude aside this year.
“I feel like I accepted the role (of being just a pitcher) a little more,” Cambron said. “It worked out well this year.”
Over the last few years, Cambron has experienced arm problems. He changed his mechanics and not only did it keep his arm healthy, it helped his command.
“It was pretty big (overhauling my mechanics). I used to pitch across my body and this year I tried to come more over the top, trying to get a little extra something on it,” Cambron said. “It made my shoulder feel better. No elbow pain. Helped my command.”
He was told by a former summer coach who played Division I ball that the pitchers he had the most trouble with were those who had three different off-speed pitches. Cambron went from being a fastball-curveball guy to adding a changeup and slider. The two extra pitches were not simply throwaway pitches, either. Uhalde said he could throw all four pitches for strikes at any time.
“His biggest jump was learning how to use those other pitches,” Uhalde said.
All in all, Cambron simply took to heart all the tips to make him a better pitcher. He chalks it up to being open-minded to try different things.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I was the quiet, shy kid in the back. I just listened and did what I was told,” Cambron said. “I don’t like to be the cocky, standoffish guy. I just listen and take advice from others.”
He also changed his mindset on the mound. At 6-3, 220 pounds, it would be easy to envision Cambron as a power pitcher. A guy who simply reared back and threw the ball with everything he had.
Cambron, in fact, is quite the opposite.
“He doesn’t throw hard enough to just be a power pitcher. I’d be shocked if he hit 86 (mph) this season. He was in the 83, 84 range. There is no way he would have the success he did if he couldn’t throw his [off-speed pitches],” Uhalde said.
Cambron admitted in the past he fancied himself a power guy and got caught up in the pursuit of strikeouts.
“Last year, my whole thing was to get as many strikeouts as possible. I thought that would help win baseball games,” Cambron said.
Over the summer, however, he was among the youngest players on his summer ball team, facing batters who were older, stronger and more experienced. It was there Cambron really learned how to pitch to batters.
“I was playing against older guys and I couldn’t overpower those guys,” Cambron said. “You have to make pitches that have a lot of movement. It gave me a new vision on how to pitch.”
Cambron said he started to pitch to contact this season and let his defense help him out. That strategy enabled Cambron to avoid a lot of high-stress innings. And while he may have thrown a lot of pitches this season, Uhalde said he never believed Cambron was at risk for an arm injury.
“He just never really got himself in trouble,” Uhalde said. “He did pitch a lot of innings and faced a lot of batters. But they were low-stress innings.
“In high school baseball, you can be successful with a mentality and mindset. I think that was the biggest difference. He learned how to take control of a game.”
Cambron will now try to take what he learned at the high school level to the college stage as he plans to pitch for Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz for the next couple of years and he hopes beyond.
“I think I can (pitch at the next level), but I’m a little biased,” Cambron said. “I was talking with the (Cabrillo) coach and he was really excited I was on going down there next year. He seemed excited to see I had the pitches I have and the fact I can go deep in games.”
Can’t really ask any more from a pitcher.