Kyle McCoy, like every other high school baseball player in the state, has seen his season put on hold under restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus.
McCoy had a highly eventful 10 months since his freshman season ended last spring but that impressive momentum has hit a roadblock in the unlikely form of a pandemic.
The 6-3, 165-pound lefthander went 6-1 for the Hunterdon Central junior varsity squad in 2019 then embarked on such an outstanding summer that, shortly after the July 4 holiday, he had given a verbal commitment to the University of Maryland.
“It was going great,” said McCoy of his first experience practicing with the Hunterdon Central varsity last week. “We had six tryout days and our first practice (after final cuts) as a team on Friday. We were so happy at the start of it then we got the news that we were postponed. We hit a huge divot with that.”
Within a couple hours, Hunterdon Central shut down the 2,800-student school for two weeks and the NJSIAA suspended all spring sports. Of course, we hear now the length of school closures in the state is likely to be much longer.
“It’s terrible, but I really feel for the seniors,” said McCoy. “It’s a heartbreaker for them. It’s astounding what’s happened. To hear of a virus that can close schools worldwide, I would never think about it happening.”
McCoy is yet another in a long line of young and talented pitchers to grace the Hunterdon Central program. Old Dominion’s Joey DeChiaro (2019) and Kentucky’s Alex Degen (2018) are two of the recent Red Devils vintage. But McCoy is just knocking on the door, waiting and hoping for his chance to make as much noise on the varsity level as his predecessors.
“Coach (Kevin) Cuozzi told us, at this point, it may be tough to keep our heads up but we need to keep doing our thing to stay ready,” said McCoy. “He told us we need the mindset to be just as prepared when we get back as we were when we left.”
Cuozzi’s pitching staff is rounding out and he looks forward to see what McCoy can add to a solid nucleus.
“I think the sky is the limit for a pitcher like Kyle,” says Cuozzi. “Although he’s still very young, he has a vey strong mental grasp for the game and on how to pitch. He reminds me of Joey DeChiaro in regard to how his ball runs and how he can rely on his changeup to disrupt hitters.”
McCoy‘s dynamic summer with the Diamond Jacks Super 15U team saw him showcase a low 80s fastball and a slider and changeup he threw with confidence and deadly accuracy. The 15 year-old leaned on that slider to pitch a one-hitter at the heavily scouted Super 17 Invitational at Diamond Nation in June.
The long lefty was suddenly drawing the attention of such Division 1 programs as Maryland, Virginia, Coastal Carolina, Boston College, Virginia Tech and Pitt.
“I talked to coach (Corey) Muscara of Maryland after Super 17,” said McCoy. Muscara, an assistant to Maryland head coach Rob Vaughn, is in his fourth year with the Terrapins.
Maryland, actually, would woo McCoy pretty quickly with the help of a coincidental Diamond Jack visit to the campus in July to compete in a tournament. “I got to see what it was like to play on their field and pitch on their mound,” said McCoy. “I had another school in contact with me at that point, but after I stepped on the mound at Maryland I said, ‘Wow, this may be the school for me.’”
The McCoy family traveled back to Maryland the following weekend to tour the campus and by July 7 Kyle had committed to play for the Terrapins.
“Personally I had a great connection with coach Vaughn and coach Muscara,” said McCoy. “They presented some great stuff to me about the school and I fell in love with everything.”
Scouts have also fallen in love with McCoy’s stuff.
His changeup and slider have given him options in an arsenal that also includes his two-seam and four-seam fastball. Opposing batters have those two breaking balls to consider while trying to get on top of his fastball.
McCoy started throwing the changeup, “at eight years old,” he says. “Since then there’s always been someone harping on me to keep throwing it, trusting it, until I start throwing it well. It’s really my go-to pitch now.”
He began throwing the slider two years ago when he describes it as “a wack pitch” but now controls it to the point that, “It’s effective and I can rely on it a lot.”
McCoy finished his summer strong with the Super 15U and had a great fall with the Super 16U team. Travis Anderson coached both teams.
“Coach Anderson is a phenomenal coach,” said McCoy. “He trusted me in the situations he put me in and that made me more comfortable on the mound. He has your back out there. I carry with me a lot of what he’s taught me.”
Winter workouts at Diamond Nation the past two years have also provided clear dividends for McCoy.
“Diamond Nation does a great job with arm care through the fall and winter,” said McCoy. “Before the (2018-19) winter I was throwing 76. After that winter I was at 83 on my fastball. I gained seven miles per hour. I attribute that to working with ‘Ditro’ (Steve DiTrolio) and ‘Delro’ (Brian Del Rosso). We do a lot of plyo balls work. You exercise before and after light throwing. It helped unlock the game for me.”
Anderson concurred with that assessment. “Kyle has made great strides in the past year,” he said. “He throws across his body and that works for him. He can throw in to righties, which is hard to do with his stride but he makes it work. How lefties hit him at all I don’t know. His potential is out of this world.”
That 2019 winter and summer and fall experience sent McCoy into this winter highly confident he would continue to make progress.
“Our coaches introduced some new things and some of it you are uncomfortable with at first,” said McCoy. “It’s all about strengthening your arm. They make sure your mechanics are working out well. They care more about the future than about the now. It’s always about working toward the future. Diamond Nation puts a lot of effort in educating in what we need to do to succeed.”
All of that preparation has had McCoy, a Diamond Jack since he was 11 years old, chomping at the bit in anticipation of his first varsity season. Should Hunterdon Central and the rest of the Garden State return to the field in time to salvage the 2020 season, McCoy will be ready.
“I just hope to have a chance to show my worth and do what I can do to benefit the team,” said McCoy.
So does Cuozzi.
“Being a young college commit, Kyle is still very driven and not content,” he says. “I think that will be the difference maker in his development over the next few years at Hunterdon Central, the Diamond Jacks and post high school.”