When Riverview High School coach Rich Griser went to the WPIAL baseball showcase in June, he thought he knew what to expect from his pitcher Anthony Malky.
Having just completed his junior season, Malky had been consistently throwing his fastball in the mid-80s mph range. That would have been impressive enough for a player with one more year of high school seasoning to go, but Malky kicked it up a notch under the spotlight of the showcase.
"I didn't even expect that when I saw 89 and a couple of times he hit 90," Griser said. "Almost every pitch he was throwing 88 or 89, right there. His changeup was working real well.
"My goodness, his first big stage -- he picked a good time to step up."
Malky spent the summer visiting colleges and showcases, weighing a number of scholarship offers. Last month, he gave his verbal commitment to the University of Akron.
"It was definitely a big weight off my shoulders once I committed," he said.
Malky said he chose the Zips for a number of reasons, including proximity to his home in Oakmont, the school's facilities and the coaching staff, specifically pitching coach Matt Ford, who pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2003.
Perhaps the biggest factor, though, was the chance Malky will get to contribute as soon as he steps on campus. The Zips will almost certainly use Malky out of the bullpen, and he may even have a decent shot at starting.
"That was a huge part," he said. "I can come in and I'm going to have a chance to work into the stating rotation. I'm definitely going to be pitching."
Now that he has the recruiting process wrapped up, Malky is already anxious to begin focusing on Riverview's 2013 season.
Last year, the Raiders went 11-8, 5-7 in Class AA Section 4. Malky went 6-2 with 85 strikeouts, fourth-most in the WPIAL. According to Griser, he had a 0.94 ERA and 0.76 WHIP.
"There's nothing going on on that field or in that game that he's not on top of," Griser said. "That's another thing that he brings to the game. Not so much his ability as a ballplayer, but his sharpness out there. That savvy, he just knows what's going on. It's almost like having another coach out there."
As the season progressed, Malky said he could feel himself throwing harder and getting stronger. While he was pleased with his performance at the WPIAL showcase, he said he didn't totally surprise himself.
"Going into that WPIAL showcase, it was just a big mindset thing," he said. "I was way more confident, going all out. I just wanted to prove myself."
Next year, the Raiders will drop down to Class A. Malky said he hopes to be named the WPIAL Class A Pitcher of the Year, and lead Riverview back to the WPIAL playoffs after two years away from the postseason.
"We thought we were going to compete in AA, and now they move us down," Griser said. "We've got a lot of kids coming back. Anthony is excited and obviously you like having that stopper, like the Pirates have [A.J.] Burnett."
Malky said he wants to develop his curveball as a reliable third pitch by the time he gets to Akron.
"I want to be able to throw it for a high percentage of strikes," he said. "I've always had a good fastball, good changeup, but the curveball has never really been there. I want to have a curveball I can use."
At 5-foot-7, Malky certainly isn't the most intimidating figure on the mound. He admitted that his stature has sparked him to work a little harder.
"It gives me a chance to show how good I really am," he said. "It's definitely made me work harder to prove myself more."
No matter how tall Malky is, the rest of the WPIAL -- and, soon, college opponents -- will learn what Griser already knows: Don't be surprised at what he can do.
Sam Werner: email@example.com or on Twitter @SWernerPG First Published August 16, 2012 4:00 AM