Collett fearless on the mound

The Enterprise –– Michael Koff

Prime focus: Dylan Collett, a 2012 Guilderland graduate, winds up a pitch for the Albany Dutchmen last Thursday during a 4-to-0 home win over the Utica Brewers. Collett is going into his sophomore year at Keene State, and struck out six Utica batters over seven innings last Thursday for the shutout. Collett was an All Star selection in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, which garners some of the best collegiate players from around the country.

The Enterprise –– Michael Koff

Hard toss: The Albany Dutchmen have some of America’s best collegiate baseball players on its roster, including Guilderland’s Dylan Collett, a sophomore at Keene State, here, throwing a pitch during a home game against the Utica Brewers last Thursday in Albany. In 13 appearances and four starts for the Dutchmen, Collett has a 1.24 ERA over 43.2 innings, with 30 hits, six earned runs, nine walks, and 43 strikeouts. He has a 3-0 record and two saves. 

GUILDERLAND — Dylan Collett isn’t a big guy, but there’s a good chance that he’ll get you out.

The batter facing Collett could be one of the best collegiate talents in America, or David Ortiz of Major League Baseball. Collett doesn’t care who you are; he just wants to send you back to the dugout, speaking obscenities to yourself.

Like, “How did this kid just strike me out? He’s smaller than my little brother…” A southpaw, Collett has pitched since his Little League days. At 5 feet, 10 inches and 165 pounds, he’s still considered small.

“I’m always thinking about that next pitch, and I want it to be one that the batter doesn’t want to hit,” said Collett this week. He’s a 2012 Guilderland graduate, who is going into his sophomore year at Keene State in New Hampshire. He’s spent his summer pitching for the Albany Dutchmen of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, which harvests some of the best talent in collegiate baseball.

“It’s that next pitch, nothing else,” added Collett, who is a Division III athlete that has faced mostly Division I batters this summer. “I try to hit my spots and look at what batters like or don’t like. They’re big kids from big schools, but I want to know them, so I can get the job done.”

Collett is 3-1, suffering his first loss as a starter on Tuesday, over 48.2 innings pitched. He has a 1.29 ERA with 36 hits, seven earned runs, 11 walks, and 44 strikeouts. Hitters are batting .199 against Collett, who also has two saves for the Albany Dutchmen.

Albany Head Coach Nick Davey was an assistant for Guilderland when Collett was in high school. He wanted to give the local kid an opportunity with Albany this summer, and he’s glad he did. Collett began as a relief pitcher, but his stellar performance earned him a spot in the starting rotation.

Before he was a starter, Collett had five different situations with runners on first and second base with no outs. Each time, Collett got Albany out of the jam.

“He’s one of the best competitors I’ve ever coached,” said Davey, who has been Albany’s head coach for four years. “He does it silently, though. He doesn’t show much emotion out there. He’s always had a lot of confidence, but, now, he’s repeating his pitching mechanics. He’s getting ahead in the count.”

As a pitcher, strike one is most important.

Collett averages about one strikeout per inning, but he doesn’t think of himself as a strikeout pitcher. “It’s where you put it,” he said. “I’m focused more on the spot of the pitch, working on the location. I want as much movement as possible, and my fastball moves pretty well, so I get those ground balls.”

Davey told The Enterprise that Collett threw 58 percent of his pitches for strikes during his senior year at Guilderland, but has increased that percentage to 64. Collett’s fastball hovers around 84 to 86 miles per hour.

“He’s worked a lot on his pitching craft, so it’s a little easier for him now,” Davey said. “He wasn’t a consistent strike thrower in high school, but now he’s in the zone after really working on his mechanics.”

At Guilderland, Collett was a late bloomer, flashing some velocity towards the end of his senior season. Doug LaValley, Guilderland’s long-tenured coach, said that he spent a lot of time working with Collett, maybe the most of any player he’s coached.

“He really wanted to be pushed to the limit,” said LaValley, who has watched Collett pitch for Albany this summer. “He has this passion, so he loves to compete. More control and confidence has helped him become a pitcher, instead of just a thrower.”

Collett said he wouldn’t be where he is today without LaValley’s guidance. “Doug is like a father to me, and I can talk to him about anything,” he said. “Guilderland is top of the line for high school baseball. Doug taught me about hard work, and how much baseball can affect you.”

Having a strong sense of worth is important for Collett, and he usually stays honest with himself.

“We always said, ‘Trust your stuff, keep the faith,’ and that’s what Dylan is doing,” LaValley said. “He’s got a big upside, so the sky is the limit.”

Collett was a PGCBL All Star selection this summer, closing out the 7-to-3 victory for the East All Stars with a flawless ninth inning. Division I athletes have more of a commitment, but Collett feels just as obligated in Division III.

Talented baseball players can be found at any level.

“I’m honored to be pitching in this league,” Collett said. “I’ve learned a lot, and the competitiveness is great, even within the team. It’s been a grind.”

Albany has been playing games almost every day since June 5, and the team has PGCBL playoffs to look forward to in the coming week.

“I don’t mind playing a lot of baseball because it prepares you for the future,” Collett said. “That’s why we’re here, right? We’re all pushing to get to that next level, and some of us will eventually get there.”

Baseball has been a huge part of Collett’s life since he was a little kid. An avid New York Yankees fan, he follows the team every day, even if he gets back to Albany at 2 a.m. after an away game with his own team.

“This sport always gives you a second chance, an opportunity to bounce back if you had a bad outing,” said Collett. “No other athletes play as much as baseball players. I see the same guys every day, and everyone loves baseball as much as the other guy.”

He didn’t get that many innings with Keene State last spring, but he’s found a rhythm with Albany.

“If I’m struggling, I take a lap around the field, or a deep breath, and try to focus,” Collett said. “If you’re not focusing, then you’re struggling, so the focus and intensity carries over.”

In baseball, plenty of weight falls on the pitcher. Does Collett feel the pressure?

“Some people say that the team can only go as far as its pitcher can go,” he said. “It’s hard to win without good pitching, so it can be tough, but I think it’s more fun than anything else.”

Keene State plays in the Little East, but Collett is going to have a bigger impact on the team’s pitching staff in 2014. Albany gave him a chance, and he did not squander one ounce of the opportunity to become a better pitcher while helping his team win games.

“He earned his spot, and he’s not going to let anyone take it away from him,” Davey said. “His performance determined it, and, when you watch him, it’s always 100-percent earned. He’s going to get better.”

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