Irvine (Calif.) Beckman RHP Zach Espinosa chooses Cal baseball walk-on opportunity over major scholarship offers

Emergent Irvine (Calif.) Beckman right-handed pitcher Zach Espinosa chose a walk-on offer at Cal over scholarship offers from other major Division I programs.

California added to its 2017 recruiting class on Saturday, but not in the conventional sense.

Irvine (Calif.) Beckman right-hander Zach Espinosa decided to take a walk-on offer from the Bears over scholarship offers from San Diego State, Nevada, Cal State Fullerton and Valparaiso.

"I've been talking to a number of schools since March, but Cal, for me, in the long run, felt like the best choice, academics-wise, and their baseball program is great, being in the Pac-12 and everything," Espinosa said.

It's not often that a prospect with that kind of offer list (though Fullerton filled his spot) is available this late in the 2017 cycle, but that's because Espinosa wasn't on the college baseball radar until very recently.

"I was a late bloomer," said the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Espinosa. "My sophomore and junior year, I sat the bench on my varsity team, and it wasn't until the summer after my junior season that I started getting into the mix of things. My club team coach, over the summer, got my fastball up from 85 up to 91."

On March 10, Espinosa faced off with Fullerton signee Tanner Bibee, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound righty out of Mission Viejo (Calif.).

"There were a bunch of pro scouts and college scouts there, and I was clocked at 93," Espinosa said. "Everyone was like, 'Who is this kid? We have no idea.' People would talk, but going into the game, I just thought of [Bibee] as just another pitcher I was facing. I knew that everyone was probably there for him. I was just composed, pitching my game, and my game ended up beating his game."

The Patriots won, 1-0, in 9 innings. Then, the phone started ringing. 

Teams were attracted to the movement he had on his three primary pitches -- his low-90s fastball, a two-seam fastball and a slider. Coming from a low-three-quarters release, his fastballs have arm-side run, with his slider darting back the other way, in to left-handers. He also has a developing change up.

Espinosa and the Bears began talking three weeks ago, and two weeks ago, he came up to visit for Cal's series against USC, a series which saw two walk-off homers from first baseman Andrew Vaughn.

"It was crazy," Espinosa said. "A walk-off is always a great thing to see. I was sitting behind the dugout, and they're always up-beat, and to see when the hit a home run, all the low-fives with the whole dugout, it was just a really fun environment to be around."

Last Thursday, pitching coach Thomas Eager offered the opportunity to come to Berkeley.

"I talked it over with some of my coaches, and on Saturday, I accepted the spot," Espinosa said. Top Stories