Claremore Daily Progress

June 22, 2013

After handcuffing Team Oklahoma, Texas' Sawyer has decision to make

CNHI News Services

NORMAN — Forgive Josh Sawyer if he’s struggling to get his story entirely straight. Given the circumstances, you would, too.

Who’s Josh Sawyer?

He’s the guy who pitched Team Texas past Team Oklahoma Friday night at Norman North in the annual Heartland Baseball Classic showcase between the Red River rivals.

Texas won 6-3, Sawyer went the distance, even appearing to get the final out four different times. He didn’t really have his best stuff, striking out three, walking two and allowing nine hits, and still he offered some moments of real brilliance.

Sawyer began the game by limiting the damage to a single run despite allowing two hits in each of the first three innings. He closed the game by enduring two seventh-inning errors by his defense (and a blown call that went against him at third base), each allowing a run to cross, before getting Isaac Hollihan to pop out to end it.

In between, he was dominant, retiring eight straight and 12 of 13 Oklahoma batters before Austin Feathers unloaded a seventh-inning double.

His fastball was clocking in between 86 and 88 miles per hour, and that was part of him not having his best stuff, because he’s been clocked as high as 93.

About that story.

Sawyer described himself as being an early commitment to Villanova, but said that he had recommitted because “my brother has an arm injury and I decided I wanted to stay close to him while he goes through this pain,” he said. “I want to help him through this, so I decided to recommit and stay somewhere close in Texas.”

His brother, Matt, will be a senior in high school next year and is coming to terms with saying goodbye to baseball. That’s the thing Sawyer wants to help him get through.

He may well stay in Texas.

He said he had current offers on the table from Texas, Texas A&M, Arizona, Vanderbilt and Baylor. It’s an interesting list because Vanderbilt and Arizona do not have campuses in Texas.

Also, he appears to have not simply taken back his commitment to Villanova, but to have gotten out of signing with the Wildcats last November. Villanova’s athletic website listed Sawyer as an early signee in a Nov. 29 press release.

Why choose Villanova when you’ve got offers from power programs in power conferences? Apparently, the current offers have only come lately.

“I committed early and I was still throwing 84-85, and I hit 93 this year,” Sawyer said. “Everything’s just kind of fallen into place.”

Everybody has a story and Sawyer’s sounds like an oddessey.

What made him noteworthy Thursday was the way he got better as the game went along, owning Oklahoma after the third inning without being overpowering. Except, if Sawyer had his best fastball, he might well have been overpowering.

“I’ve been pitching a lot for scouts and stuff,” he said, explaining why his velocity wasn’t his best.

As soon as he exited the diamond, a Toronto Blue Jay scout intercepted him to chat, which made perfect sense because the Blue Jays just selected Sawyer in the 32nd round with the 955th pick in the draft.

If you’re wondering, Toronto’s short-season Class A farm team is not only not in Texas, but not in the United States.

It’s in Vancouver.

He said he wants to go somewhere that feels like the right fit, with a pitching coach he believes can help him reach the major leagues.

“I am playing this tournament and then I am going to Arizona for a week,” he said, “and, after that, I will make my commitment.”

Soon, he will be the Big 12’s, the SEC’s, or the Pac-12’s problem. Good news for the rest of the Heartland Classic, he is no longer anybody’s problem here in Norman.

After seven strong innings Thursday, Sawyer will remain in uniform, but off the mound.

He earned his rest.