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Mutka: Mel Dumezich leaves Whiting imprint in Texas

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Four years ago, Texas A&M softball coach Jo Evans signed premier Whiting pitcher Mel Dumezich. She was the first Hoosier to play for the nationally acclaimed program.

Texas A&M’s roster is stocked predominantly with in-state talent so Dumezich represented a departure for Evans, who has been the conference coach of the year seven times at three different colleges.

“One of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” she said before a weekend series with Colorado State.

In four years, Dumezich has rewarded her with 97 victories. Not content with just pitching, she also led the Aggies in home runs (20) and RBI (47) in her junior year and is on a comparable pace this season.

Though she’s a long way from the Oil City, Dumezich says she’s never been homesick. Her parents visit frequently and her mother, Linda, a Whiting elementary teacher, took advantage of a spring break to spend last weekend in Texas.

Dumezich is the third All-America pitcher Evans has coached in 17 years at Texas A&M, which has won three national championships and appeared in 11 College World Series.

Her passion for the game makes her a delight to coach.

“Mel gets so fired up on the mound it shows in her actions,” Evans said. “She’s inspirational without being very vocal.”

You get a lot of “yeps” in conversation with Dumezich, who does her talking 43 feet from the plate. Her emotional pitch resonates.

Evans would like to clone the versatile senior, who has also played shortstop, second base and first base and carries a .567 career slugging percentage. To keep her fresh, Dumezich is now limited to pitching.

“Don’t want to wear her out,” Evans explains. “I want to make sure she’s strong for the post-season.”

After leading Whiting to two state championships, Dumezich was recruited by Alabama and Georgia, but chose A&M after Gerry Glasco, her summer ball coach with the Southern Force, urged Evans to check her out.Glasco is now associate head coach at Georgia, which makes them conference rivals.

Defecting from the Big 12 to the SEC is a major adjustment, especially from the traveling standpoint. Greater distances are involved, but charter flights shorten the actual time spent on the road.

“Really good competition,” said Dumezich before practice. “The SEC is more of a hitting conference.”

Tougher on pitchers?

“Oh, yeah. For sure.”

The 5-foot-8 blonde is up to the challenge. Intent on piggybacking the Aggies to a fourth straight regional appearance, she was 21-5 with a 1.91 ERA and averaging better than a strikeout per inning through Saturday.

“Week in and week out we’re playing top 10 teams,” Evans said. “Three of our first four series in the SEC were against ranked teams.”

At 30-7 through Saturday, the Aggies are headed for their fourth 40-win season in as many years. Dumezich accounts for more than 61 percent of their 158 victories in that period.

Her forte is keeping hitters off-balance. All five of her pitches have good movement.

“She spins the ball well and her off-speed drop is really tough to hit,” said Evans. “She throws strikes on either side of the plate.”

Dumezich defers to her coach when asked.

“Good question,” she said, “but I’d say my dropball.”

Dumezich is majoring in sports management. Some day she’d like to coach at the college level, but is putting that on the back burner for the time being.

Recently she was drafted by the Chicago Bandits, who play in the National Pro Fastpitch League. She’s excited by the part-time gig because she’d be playing close to home.

“I definitely wanted that,” she said.

It’s not enough to make a living, but could eventually lead to financial security. According to her the big bucks come from playing overseas.

“Places like Japan,” she said. “A lot of Americans play there for six months, then in the states for the other six.”

Ol’ Man River .... Gary native LaTroy Hawkins just keeps rolling along. The 40-year-old right hander hooked up with the Mets, his ninth team since 1994, and has already made two relief appearances.

Last season the 18-year veteran relieved in 48 games with the underachieving Angels, who failed to make the playoffs. He was 2-3 with a 3.64 ERA.



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