College | Story | 4/14/2020

Jarvis focused on the future

Blake Dowson        
Photo: Bryce Jarvis (Duke Athletics)

When the NCAA selection show revealed the pairings for the 2019 NCAA Tournament, Bryce Jarvis saw an opportunity.

Jarvis, a Franklin, Tennessee native, noticed that if his Duke Blue Devils got through their Morgantown Regional, they would more than likely end up in the Nashville Super Regional, paired up against Vanderbilt, with campus being less than 30 minutes away from home for him.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” he said of his emotions. “Seeing the bracket pop up on the NCAA selection show, most people are looking at the Morgantown Regional that we’re going to, and that was definitely the first thing I looked at, but a very close second was the Super Regional we were paired up with. When I saw it was Nashville, the thoughts started swirling in the back of my head like, ‘If we can pull off winning this regional, I get to go home and play in front of friends and family that I haven’t seen in a while.’

“Fortunately, that came to be. Getting to pitch in that game is definitely one of the highlights of my college baseball career.”

Jarvis got the ball for game two of the Super, after Duke exploded for an 18-5 win over the Commodores in game one.

With their season on the line, Vanderbilt handed the ball to true freshman Kumar Rocker. Most college baseball fans know the rest of that story.

Rocker threw a 19-strikeout no-hitter to keep Vandy’s season alive, and the Dores would go on to win a decisive game three, 13-2.

Unfortunately for Jarvis, game two of the series won’t be remembered as his homecoming, although he was brilliant in the contest. Against the eventual national champs, Jarvis tossed seven innings of one-run ball, striking out nine along the way.

“Every game, you hope it’s a pitcher’s duel, because that’s what you train for,” Jarvis said of the game. “That’s what you play for. At the end of the day, you’ve got to focus on what you’re doing. Looking back, it’s easy to say both guys pitched great games, but in the moment,  you’re just focusing on doing your job and you can’t get caught up on what’s going on in the other dugout.”

That start, according to Jarvis, was the beginning of what he has become – one of the top pitching prospects in this year’s draft, whatever shape the draft ends up taking this year.

A talented player coming out of high school, Jarvis was ranked 347th in the class of 2017. He attended the 2015 Jr. National and 2016 National Showcases as a talented two-way prospect that also shined on the infield. He was draft eligible a year ago as a sophomore and was selected by the Yankees in the 37th round, but opted to return to Duke knowing he had some unfinished business.

After spending the summer after his freshman year on the Cape, Jarvis spurned the opportunity to appear again and instead spent part of the summer training in Seattle at Driveline Baseball, where he worked on pitch design, reshaping his slider and adding a curveball to his repertoire.

When he was done in Seattle, he travelled over to Boston to work with a strength coach in Beantown.

Jarvis said the work with the strength coach has made the biggest impact during his junior year, in which his fame in the college baseball realm has skyrocketed.

It began with his second start of the season, against Cornell.

“I felt great in the pen,” Jarvis said of that start. “You always try to carry any success you have in the pen out to the game. Sometimes you don’t feel good in the pen and things still work out in the game, and sometimes you feel good in the pen and you don’t end up carrying it out there. That was definitely one of those days where everything was working for me in the pen, and I remember turning to Coach [Dusty] Blake and saying something like, ‘Everything’s working today.’ He was just like, ‘Alright, let’s go have a ballgame.’”

Jarvis tossed a perfect game, with 15 strikeouts along with it. It was a viral performance for a prospect who had already been moving up draft boards.

And although it’s pretty much impossible to replicate a performance like that, Jarvis came close in his next two starts before the season was called off.

In his final two starts of the year after the perfect game, against Purdue and Florida State, Jarvis tossed a combined 14 innings and allowed only one run while striking out 23 hitters and walking only one.

Jarvis has always been a student of the game. His father, Kevin, pitched for 13 years in the MLB, retiring in 2006 as a member of the Boston Red Sox, and Bryce can remember shagging fly balls during BP at Fenway Park when he was nine years old.

He said he learned a lot about himself during the perfect game and applied that knowledge to his next couple starts.

“It was attacking the zone with more intent than I ever had before,” Jarvis said. “That game gave me the confidence to say, ‘Alright, I have four pitches and I feel like I have the ability to throw any of them in any count and no matter who’s standing in the box, I can beat them.’ Not trying to be too fine and nibble at corners or try to get guys to chase. Just saying that my stuff is good, I’m going to throw it in the zone, and see if they can hit it.”

The answer to that last question, on almost every occasion, was an emphatic no.

Now Jarvis is down in Boca Raton, Florida with five of his Duke teammates, training for the draft. His catcher, Michael Rothenberg, grew up there. They’re all staying at his place.

Staying together has given them the chance to digest how the season ended so suddenly, with conversations around the dinner table typically ending up with favorite memories of their shared careers in Durham.

It may not be exactly how Jarvis envisioned the months leading up to the draft. He would’ve liked to have led Duke to the College World Series before his time on campus was over, or at least share another full season with his guys.

The journey took an unexpected turn, but the destination has always been the same. Jarvis has always seen himself as a first round pick. Every decision he has made leading up to this point has been calculated, looking as far back as that Super Regional start against Vanderbilt.

“That was the plan going back to the end of last season,” he said. “That was the driving force behind deciding not to play summer baseball, was the draft. Saying what course of action puts me in the best position to get drafted as high as possible this year. I think all the work I put in last summer and last fall had all been leading up to making that big jump and getting people to notice the progress I had made.”

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