Keeping a level head while tabbed as one of the top players at any level can be a challenge. Junior Matt Warren is set to do just that as the 2015 Preseason Big East co-pitcher of the year.
“[I have to] keep a level head this year; don’t let pressure sit in too much and stay within myself as best I can,” Warren said.
The right-hander also earned recognition on the Preseason 2015 Louisville Slugger All-America team.
Warren posted a 10-1 record over 12 starts last season. The Omaha Skutt graduate allowed only 19 earned runs and 62 hits in 84 1/3 innings pitched. Warren’s 2.03 ERA ranked second in the Big East, behind 2014 Big East Pitcher of the Year Josh Prevost.
His 12 starts ranked second on the team to junior Taylor Elman’s 17.
“He won 10 games last year, but he missed a lot of the season as well,” coach Ed Servais said. “Hopefully, we can keep him healthy; and that’s a challenge for starting pitchers in college baseball because of the season being condensed.”
Warren earned 2014 Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball All-America Second Team honors during his first near-full season as the Friday starter for the Bluejays.
The junior was named to the All-Big East First Team last sesaon.
Servais noted that Warren needs to improve his strength, conditioning and endurance in order to make it through the college season.
“He has to be better aware of how his body works and take care of that, as well as his arm,” Servais said.
Last season, Warren struck out only 45 batters and walked a mere 25, but he also allowed only 6.62 hits-per-nine innings, good enough for second in the Big East.
The Omaha native had one complete game and seven quality starts (six or more innings and three runs allowed or fewer).
“The biggest thing is sticking to my game plan from last year, work down in the zone and make sure I let my defense work behind me,” Warren said.
“When you try to do too much as a pitcher it usually doesn’t work out.”
The Creighton defense led the Big East and ranked near the top of the pack nationally in fielding percentage, with a .984 mark. The Jays had only 32 errors in 50 games during the 2014 campaign.
As a freshman, Warren appeared in 15 games and made six starts. He made his first career start as the Sunday starter in the opening weekend series against Dallas Baptist.
On his way to a 3-3 record, the former Skyhawk claimed his first victory in a three-hit outing against Evansville on March 23.
“He got thrown into the mix pretty early as a freshman, and like a lot of freshman, they get caught up in the moment; the game is moving pretty fast for [them],” Servais said, “but the more they play and the more they experience [playing], the better control they have.
“One thing you notice with older pitchers is the poise in which they go about their business.”
Servais believes that Warren’s mound-presence and preparation has improved during his first two seasons and hopes that he can be a leader for the 2015 staff.
“Matt, for the most part, is a pretty quiet guy, so there’s different ways that he can lead,” Servais said. “I hope that through his preparation he can show the other pitchers why he was a 10-game winner last year.”
An experienced pitching staff looks to lead the Jays, as 12 out of 15 pitchers that saw time on the mound during 2014 return for the 2015 slate.
“All I can hope is that all of the pitchers continue to work as they are now; because I’m thinking this can be a very special year,” Warren said.
Although Creighton returns the majority of last year’s roster, Servais pointed out that his players need to continue to develop their game.
“We’re excited about the pitching depth, but that doesn’t guarantee that these pitchers will be better because they’re a year older,” Servais said. “They need to understand that.
“We need to continue to get better, and that includes Matt.”
Warren agrees that he needs to continue to grow this season.
“My biggest goal is to not get too comfortable,” Warren said.
Creighton opens the 2015 season on the road against Cal State Bakersfield Feb. 13-15.
The Bluejays’ Big East schedule begins April 2 at Georgetown.
Last season the Jays had limited knowledge about the other teams in the conference and experienced difficulties of traveling to large cities.
“We’re expecting this year to go a lot more smoothly,” Warren said. “We’ll know how to handle the travel.”
Despite the setbacks, Creighton won the regular-season crown with a 14-4 Big East record and reached the postseason tournament championship.
Creighton’s first home series is March 6-8 against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.