Steller gets off to lofty start Mowing 'em down: McDonogh's ace is 3-0 with an 0.00 ERA, 21 strikeouts in 21 innings, and only six hits allowed.

April 14, 1996|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

For McDonogh hurler Mike Steller, the transformation occurred during a summer tournament with the Yankee Rebels.

"It was the last tournament of the season, and I was in a tough game that went into extra innings. There were a lot of pro and college scouts there, and it was a lot of pressure to be under," said Steller, a senior right-hander.

"At times, I was tired, and I was thinking, 'this is too much.' But I didn't let myself give up mentally. I just got this will to win that got me through, and I won the game."

Steller, the No. 3 pitcher on last year's team, has been as good as his last name so far this season.

In his first few games on the mound before yesterday's St. Paul's Tournament, where he did not start for McDonogh (8-1), Steller was 3-0 with an 0.00 ERA. He had struck out 21 batters in 21 innings with one walk, and yielded just six hits. He nearly pitched a perfect game in a 7-0 shutout of Gibbons, facing the minimum of 21 batters with nine strikeouts.

"But against the second batter of the game, he struck out the kid with a wicked curve that got by our catcher," said his coach, Chet Janiga. "Mike was kind of upset, but he ended up picking off the kid at first base and retiring the rest."

With that, Steller was on the way to being "The Man" for the Eagles.

"That's what he wants to be," said Janiga. "He's been elected captain of a young team, and he's one of two veterans -- along with Mike Dubansky -- that we'll be counting on heavily. He's been letting me know in subtle ways that he's up to the task."

During the off-season, Steller (6 feet 2, 170 pounds) developed a sneaky fastball, a consistent curve and a nice changeup, in addition to plenty of confidence.

"Physically, my arm is a lot stronger, and so are my legs," said Steller, who went the distance in Friday's 7-3 victory over Loyola and got three of his five stolen bases this year. "I just feel like I've been given a boost."

Having watched schoolmates such as North Carolina-bound girls soccer player Laurie Schwoy and Nebraska-bound heavyweight J.R. Plienis -- both All-Metro Performers of the Year in their sports -- Steller has lofty aspirations for the team and himself this year.

This past winter, he led the basketball team, averaging 15 points. His batting average is up -- at .462 (12-for-26) -- and he has scored eight runs, hit a double and knocked in nine runs.

"I'm not saying I'm going to do what [Schwoy and Plienis] did, but I just want to be a strong leader for the team, and I want us to do well," said Steller, who has received interest from programs such as Maryland, Old Dominion, Drexel, Virginia, Westchester, Providence and UNC-Charlotte.

Last year, Steller played more of a background role to starter Mike Ginsberg, now at Maryland. Still, he went 4-2 on the mound with a save and a 1.69 ERA, striking out 35 batters in 37 innings. At the plate, he hit .361, scored 15 runs, had six doubles, a triple and 25 RBI.

"I know we haven't faced the top teams yet, so I still have a lot to prove," said Steller.

The stiffest test should come tomorrow, when the Eagles face MIAA rival Mount St. Joseph, last year's league tournament runner-up to Calvert Hall and the odds-on favorite to dethrone the Cardinals this year.

Steller will get the nod against the Gaels tomorrow, and should face longtime friend and Mount St. Joseph ace Ryan Baker.

"They've beaten us the last couple of times, including in last year's [MIAA semifinals]," Steller said. "Now I figure it's my turn."

Pub Date: 4/14/96

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