Focusing on the Process
April 12, 2005
To throw 25 consecutive scoreless innings takes a lot of concentration and that's just what Minnesota pitcher Matt Loberg has been working on his entire collegiate career.
The senior is in the midst of a great season at 5-2 so far and has been instrumental in the Golden Gophers 5-0 start to the Big Ten season. In addition, the right-hander was named the Big Ten Conference Pitcher of the Week twice in 2005, most recently on April 5 after he threw a complete game shutout against Indiana to extend his scoreless innings streak to 25 and boosting his and his team's confidence to new levels.
"This year our team has played some very good competition in the front of our schedule," Loberg said. "We may have thought that we were better than we really were but now that the Big Ten season has begun we are playing with the confidence that we have had since day one."
For Loberg, that confidence has been gained through a lot of hard work and determination during his four years in Minneapolis, where he has also added the physical tools which are making his senior year even more rewarding.
"Coming out of high school I never thought that I would be a starter for the Gophers," Loberg said. "I was fortunate enough to gain five miles-per-hour on my fastball and also gain about 20-pounds of strength. These were keys for me and now I am enjoying every minute of my last year here at Minnesota."
Selecting Minnesota was an easy task for the 6'3" Loberg. His father, Tim, played ball at UM in the late 70's and in 1977 was a member of what is the last Golden Gopher squad to reach the College World Series. The younger Loberg wanted to stay home and continue the family tradition, which made UM the perfect fit. However, while his father may have played a big part in choosing a school, he also draws inspiration from another source.
"I have always been a huge fan of Roger Clemens," Loberg said. "Solely because he works his tail off, he still is a guy that I look up to in college."
Like Clemens, Loberg's pitch repertoire and his success in a game hinges on how well he is throwing his fastball that day.
"My game is based around command of my fastball," Loberg explained. "If I am able to locate this pitch down in the zone the rest of my pitches fall into place. My breaking ball and changeup have both gone through many changes in my four years here, but finally with the help of Todd Oakes (UM Pitching Coach), they are all where I want them to be."
While Loberg is primarily a fastball pitcher, he has mastered many different pitches which are creating nightmares for opposing batters and success for Loberg. .
Perhaps one of the most difficult skills to master for a college pitcher is the pace of the game and to be able to pitch into the late innings. With one complete game under his belt this season and a Big Ten leading earned run average of 1.54, it seems the senior has perfected that part of his game.
"I like to focus on one pitch, one out, one inning at a time," Loberg said. "Focusing on the process of the game has helped me a great deal. If I get ahead of myself I take things for granted and may not locate as well as I would if I were focused on every pitch."
But no matter how he looks at or approaches a game, Loberg knows that it all comes down to good execution.
"I have come to the assumption that teams in the Big Ten know what I have and it all comes down to execution," said Loberg. "Yes, I refer to scouting reports on the opposition's hitters but the bottom line is if my execution is better than theirs is, the odds are in my favor."
Loberg will do his best to put the odds of winning a fourth straight Big Ten title in Minnesota's favor as the conference season plays on. But one thing is certain, he isn't thinking about the reaching the end and winning trophies, merely on the day-by-day process of pitching college baseball.