One week after West Ranch tore his heart out in a wild walk-off win, the baseball gods gifted Chase another chance.
Chase Farrell, a senior at Valencia High, took the mound in Irvine on April 5 for the Ryan Lemmon Invitational’s championship game.
His opponent: the same Wildcats who’d scored two runs off him in the bottom of the seventh inning to force what had been a dominant performance to extra innings and out of his hands.
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On this night, Farrell opened and closed. The 6-foot-2 righty commanded what’s become an electric fastball on the inside part of the plate.
He fooled batters with a newly acquired slider.
He struck out his 11th batter of the night to end the game, preserving a 3-1 win and evicting demons before they ever had time to settle in.
“I knew I wasn’t going to let that happen again in the seventh inning,” Farrell says.
This is the new Chase Farrell. Not so different from last year’s Farrell. But a version with a little more confidence, a little more meat on his bones and a little extra giddy-up on his fastball.
The UCLA signee didn’t suddenly figure things out last summer.
He trusted the process, and the process paid off.
A pitcher’s prologue
The lesson was more about safety than success.
Coaching preteens in a time before amateur baseball gravitated toward bats with less pop, Chase’s dad, Jason Farrell, taught his pitchers to throw inside.
“You don’t throw to extension to those bats,” Farrell, a 37th round pick in the 1988 MLB Draft out of Kennedy High of Granada Hills, says of pitching outside where a batter can get his hands extended, “or someone will hit a line drive off your forehead.”
Chase took the strategy to heart.
The younger Farrell struck out only 30 batters in 55 2/3 innings last year, but by locating his fastball on the inner third and mixing in changeups and curveballs, he posted a 5-3 record and a 2.39 ERA.
If not dominant, he was unquestionably solid.
But Farrell saved his best for last.
Through seven starts in 2017, he’s tossed three complete games and posted a 1.75 ERA.
He’s struck out 51 batters in 44 innings and walked 10.
He no-hit Canyon on March 22, with UCLA coach John Savage in attendance, and took a no-hit bid into the fifth inning against West Ranch in his following start before the Cats’ seventh-inning comeback.
“We’ve seen him twice this year,” says West Ranch coach Casey Burrill, “and he has lived up to the hype.”
A pitcher’s progress
If you build it, the velocity will come.
That was the gist of Jason Farrell’s and volunteer pitching coach Ryan Sadowski’s message to Chase early on in high school, urging him to focus on mechanics and learning to pitch.
As he gained weight and arm strength, they said, his mph would improve.
“Kids were throwing in the 90s as sophomores and freshmen,” Farrell says. “I was jealous. I was only throwing 75.”
Still, Farrell obeyed. He worked meticulously on the way he pitched, what he pitched and when he pitched it.
He learned to keep his weight on his back leg and keep his front side from flying open as he drove toward the plate.
He better sequenced his fastball, curve and changeup to keep hitters off balance. He took care of his arm, icing and running and long-tossing.
Then, the weight came, and the wait was over.
During his junior year, Farrell ratcheted up his weight-lifting routine from two days a week to five or six.
His family purchased a membership to LA Fitness, and Jason Farrell recalls his son coming home from two-hour sessions around 10 p.m. to do homework until midnight.
Farrell was careful to lift with proper form and on a schedule that didn’t leave him too sore to actually compete — but he got after it.
“I lift more than the average pitcher,” Farrell says. “People have different thoughts on pitchers lifting weights. But if you do things the right way, it can help.”
Farrell entered Valencia High at 125 pounds. The team roster listed him at 170 last year. He’s now 185.
“Still too thin,” Jason says.
But it’s a start. And it’s shown up on the radar gun, where Farrell began last season in the low to mid 80s, but now sits at 88 to 89 and recently touched 92.
The added velocity has added confidence. Farrell knows he can blow the ball by guys. It allows him to get ahead in the count more often and makes his other pitches — to which he recently added one — more lethal.
Before this summer, Sadowski, a former big leaguer with the Giants, suggested Farrell learn a slider — a pitch that would complement his fastball and contrast his other off-speed.
“‘Listen,’” Farrell recalls Sadowski saying, “‘as hitters get better, they’ll be able to hit that curveball. … You need that slider.’”
All Farrell changed was his grip; his arm action mimicked a fastball.
After practicing it in the bullpen, he debuted the pitch during a summer tournament in Fresno.
“That,” says Valencia catcher Jake Biscailuz, “is when his senior year took off.”
A more finished product
Farrell’s transformation from solid to spectacular may not have happened at any one moment, but there certainly was a flashpoint in terms of how others perceived him.
“He did really well at that (Fresno) tournament,” Biscailuz says. “… It was a confidence builder.”
Nearly the whole ride home, Farrell fielded calls from the handful of schools he’d impressed.
A week later, he tried out in Santa Barbara for the prestigious Area Code Baseball Games.
After watching him throw to batters, 20 schools asked him to visit.
He toured UC Santa Barbara that afternoon and traveled to UC Irvine, San Diego State and UCLA not long after.
He committed to UCLA in July and signed in November.
Ever since he started high school, Farrell envisioned himself playing college baseball.
It just took time for everyone else to see what he saw.