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Williamsport’s Chase Costello is trying to prove his worth with Cutters

DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette The Williamsport Crosscutters’ Chase Costello fields a ball during Thursday’s game against the Frederick Keys.

Chase Costello isn’t even close to the same pitcher he was when he showed up at LSU in 2018. The problem is he hasn’t had many opportunities over the last two years to prove it.

That’s why the right-handed pitcher is in Williamsport pitching with the Crosscutters. It’s been two years since Costello has pitched consistently. Some of that is because he’s been injured. Some of it was because of a lack of opportunity at LSU. And some of it is because he was ineligible this spring after transferring to Stetson University.

So with every start he makes for the Cutters, Costello is trying to prove his worth. He’s trying to prove he has the stuff to play professional baseball. He’s trying to prove he has the length the be a starter after two years in LSU’s bullpen. He’s trying to prove he has the demeanor to be a professional pitcher.

“I’m just trying to show (the scouts) who I am as a person when I’m on the mound,” Costello said after throwing five shutout innings Thursday night in a win over Frederick. “If you give me the opportunity to go out there for more than one innings, I get better as the game goes on. My velocity gets better and my command gets better as the game goes on. The biggest thing is to go out there and prove that I’m built for this, and that I am a starting pitcher. I’m here to show you what I’ve got. I’ve been dying for two years to get on the field. So I’m like a kid in a candy store when I’m out there.”

You’d never know the joy racing through Costello’s body when he’s pitching. He’s as stoic as can be when he pitches. He was taught from a young age to never show emotion on the mound, whether good or bad, because it’s something opponents can feed off of.

But he believes baseball is a game he was made to play. Baseball is what has gotten Costello through three years of school because he recognizes the importance of the student portion of being a student-athlete.

The path Costello has taken hasn’t been an easy one, and it’s been far from conventional. He committed to LSU out of Pompano Beach High School and appeared in 14 games for the Tigers as a freshman in 2019, but also battled a slew of injuries. After being among LSU’s best pitchers that fall, he appeared in only three games the following spring before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the season.

Costello realized his role at LSU wasn’t going to be what he wanted, so he asked for a release and entered the transfer portal before eventually choosing to move back to his home state of Florida to enroll at Stetson. He chose the Hatters because of pitching coach Dave Therneau and his reputation of working with pitchers.

And in the year he spent at Stetson, Costello made the adjustment from being a thrower to being a pitcher. It’s why he isn’t even remotely close to the same pitcher who appeared in 14 games and posted an 8.84 ERA as a freshman in Baton Rouge. Each time he takes the mound, he’s trying to prove that to the scouts sitting behind home plate with their radar guns pointed directly at him.

On Thursday when Costello made his fifth appearance of the MLB Draft League season for Williamsport, he showed off all the qualities he’s been hoping to show the scouts about his growth as a pitcher. He touched 95 with his fastball and sat consistently at 92-93 mph. He dominated with his yo-yo change-up which is almost unfair after he spots up his fastball on the outside black of the plate.

On top of all of that, his demeanor never changed. He wasn’t rattled when a line drive at his face deflected off his pitching hand and into his glove. He wasn’t rattled when he threw past first base on a slow roller up the third-base line. When Frederick recorded back-to-back one-out singles in the fifth inning, he calmly rolled a ground ball to third base which Nolan Wosman and Trey Steffler turned into an inning-ending double play.

Costello finished with five shutout innings which was a welcome sight one start after struggling with his secondary pitches in a start at State College. His five strikeouts were the second-most he’s recorded this season. And for the fourth time in five appearances, Costello didn’t allow an earned run.

“Coming off that last start I wanted to stay around the zone, throw strikes and don’t go deep into counts,” Costello said. “I’m building off every single outing. I’m still super young and still super raw, but I hold myself to a high standard.”

Costello has learned in the last year there was a time when he was his own biggest enemy as a pitcher. He had bulked up to as much as 255 pounds because of a football-style weight lifting regimen he was using. What he realized, though, is all the weight he put on didn’t help him as a pitcher because he lost all the mobility he had gained as a high school shortstop.

So when he made the transfer to Stetson, he also began working with Cressey Sports Performance in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. There, he learned how to work out to accentuate the muscle groups which were going to help him be a better pitcher. He dropped 35 pounds from his frame and has re-gained the mobility he had coming out of high school.

Costello said Thursday night he’s still probably about 5-10 pounds heavier than he’d like to be, but getting to 215 pounds would be ideal for his frame and for his pitching.

“This was a huge learning curve in my career,” Costello said. “After a month of working out at Cressey, I was learning how to use my body. I feel amazing at 215 pounds.”

What this all means for Costello moving forward, well that’s the big question. But after not pitching for the last two years, he loves the opportunity he’s getting with the Crosscutters to see how he’s grown as an athlete. He’s taking care of the business he can control and he’s proven to be one of the top pitching prospects in the entire MLB Draft League.

“This opportunity is unbelievable,” Costello said. “I’m so happy to get this opportunity from the Draft League and MLB. College was the first time I was only a pitcher. I’m still learning how to pitch. But Stetson showed me how to become a pitcher and how to attack hitters and it’s been paying off now that I can use it.”

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