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Keyes adds more local flavor to Pitt

June 04, 2003|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

Hiser, Devlin and Keyes.

The University of Pittsburgh's starting pitching rotation next year might have that familiar ring.

All three local ringers will be on the Panthers' roster next baseball season.

Billy Keyes - a 2001 graduate of St. James School, where he was a three-time All-Mid Atlantic Conference first-team member - is the latest to join, recently signing a letter of intent to continue his academic and athletic career at Pitt. He spent the last two years at West Hills Community College in Coalinga, Calif., before accepting a full scholarship to the Division I school.

P.J. Hiser - a 1999 South Hagerstown grad who spent two years at Hagerstown Community College - will be a fifth-year senior for the Panthers after red-shirting this past season, while Ryan Devlin - a 2001 Waynesboro grad who just wrapped up his second year at HCC - committed to Pitt last fall.

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Keyes and Devlin will both begin as juniors in the fall.

"The starting three is going to be all Hagerstown - P.J., me and Ryan. We're not going up there to sit on the bench," said Keyes. "I was told going in that it's my spot to lose, and I'm sure Ryan was told the same thing."

Hiser went 6-2 with four saves, a 3.01 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings for the Panthers in 2002 on his way to earning All-Big East third-team honors.

Keyes said the local trio should be a winning combination for the Panthers, who went 36-20 (13-13 Big East) this spring.

"It's exciting because we're in a small town and I think we have three of the best pitchers in the country," he said. "We're going to be in the College World Series next year. They were close this year, and we're going to get them over the hump."

Keyes - a 6-foot-4, 205-pound right-hander - said his confidence may be his strongest attribute.

"I bring confidence and leadership," he said. "I don't settle for anything less than a win."

Yet, Keyes' pitching record at West Hills wasn't quite as reflective of that. He went a combined 5-8 in his two seasons there.

"It was a shaky team," said Keyes, who had 75 strikeouts in 56 innings this year. "There were a lot of dropped balls in the outfield. The team wasn't quite up to par."

Things should be much different at Pitt, where Keyes was hoping to go straight out of high school.

"I was going to sign with them out of high school but there was a misunderstanding," he said. "They didn't have a full ride at first, and I needed some financial aid. But they stuck with me the whole way."

And Keyes stayed with Pitt, choosing it over such schools as Miami, USC, East Carolina and UNLV.

"(Pitt head coach Joe Jordano) was one of the best coaches I talked to," said Keyes. "He's a very nice guy and down to earth and a guy I wanted to play for."

Keyes, who was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 44th round in 2001, hopes the big leagues are next - when he's finally ready.

"I talked to (the Mariners) but decided to go the junior-college route," he said. "I was only 17 years old, and I had time to get better. In two more years I hope to get drafted again, and I'll have something to fall back on."

Keyes said he plans to major in business management.

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