The last time that 2019 Danville (Calif.) Monte Vista right-hander Josh White came out to Evans Diamond, California swept USC. At the end of that series, just before Andrew Vaughn circled the bases on his second walk-off home run of the weekend, White pulled the trigger and committed. He was one of two arms to make the pledge that weekend, along with 2017 righty Zach Espinosa.
This weekend, White -- who's 1-1 in 12 appearances (5 starts) for the Mustangs with a 2.53 ERA this season -- will return to Berkeley for the Bears' three-game set against No. 12 Stanford.
"It was definitely a big weekend," White said on Tuesday. "I've been wanting to go there since I was a little kid. I grew up around Cal. It was always something I wanted to do, go to the next level, and especially there. I've always wanted to play there. I have family who used to live in Berkeley, and I used to go to the games -- my mom and dad used to take me when I was a kid -- so I had a lot of fun growing up around that stadium and around that campus."
Pitching coach Thomas Eager offered White two months ago, and he wasn't the only college coach to see potential in the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder. UC Santa Barbara was close to offering, and both UCLA and Oregon State had expressed interest. White has 49 strikeouts in 36.0 innings of work, with a .188 batting average against in his sophomore season.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound White makes his hay with a 88-90 mph running two-seam fastball that tops out at 91-92, complimented by a curveball, a slider and a change up that tumbles down and away from lefties.
"Right now, my curveball's going through an iffy stage, but this week, it's bouncing back," White said after his bullpen session on Tuesday. "It worked last Friday for me, so that pitch is starting to come back, and I've been trying to work really hard on getting it down. Right now, the slider's working pretty well, and the change up has been phenomenal throughout the year for me."
The expressive White, who has a 3.6 grade point average, admitted to a few fist pumps after big outs early in his high school career, including throwing the final 4.0 innings against Livermore (Calif.) Granada on April 26, just days after he pulled the trigger on April 23.
"Something he really thought he liked -- and I liked it too -- was that he loved my intensity in the game, my love and passion when I'm out there on the mound, and how intense I get, getting outs," White said. "That's one of the main things he liked about me."
After junior starter Jackson Ertz allowed 2 hits and one walk over the first 3.0 innings against Granada, White came in and allowed just one hit and one walk over the final 4.0 frames, striking out 5 to preserve a 2-0 win.
"That was a big confidence booster for me," White said. "In the start of the season, I had my troubles going later into games, so that wasn't my first time [closing out a game], but that was a big moment for us, because we were only up two runs. Closing out the game felt like a big win for us. We were up 1-0, and our starter was doing well, but his pitch count started to get a little up. Going in, I just knew I had to keep the ball down, keep them from driving the ball into the gaps, and just trying to get them out without going deep in the count."
The Mustangs are 16-6 overall, and 8-3 in league play, are ranked No. 66 in the state of California and after facing Livermore (Calif.) on Wednesday and Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Valley on Friday, head into the playoffs. Before he heads into the postseason, though, White has one more date at Evans Diamond.
"It's a big stadium, and I always like sitting behind home plate with my dad and my brother, watching the pitchers and the ball come in," he said. "That's my favorite seat -- behind home plate."
In just three short years, he'll be on the other side of the backstop.