College athletics

Calvin Rayburn grows into Barry University’s ace

 

Special to The Miami Herald

After posting a 5.17 ERA as a senior at Archbishop Curley, Calvin Rayburn figured his baseball career was over.

“I was ready to just study in college and get on with my life,” said Rayburn, who at the time was a slim 6-3 and 170 pounds.

But a rival coach, Ernie Padron, who was then at Florida Christian, referred Rayburn to a travel team. Pitching well there got the attention of the coaches at Barry University, who brought him in as a late and final addition to the 2010 recruiting class.

Fast forward three years, and Rayburn has transformed himself into the ace of the Barry staff, going 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA in his first three starts of 2013.

He has continued to grow — he’s now 6-6 1/2 and 190 pounds — and his vastly increased strength has helped make him a potential major-league draft pick.

Perhaps most impressively, Rayburn has allowed just one walk in 19 innings, despite having what Barry coach Marc Pavao calls “ridiculous movement” on his pitches.

How he got that movement is a big part of the Rayburn story.

It all started in the fall of 2010, when Rayburn pitched in his first intrasquad game.

“I was getting shelled,” Rayburn admitted. “[Barry pitching coach Alex Gonzalez] told me that I could keep throwing like I was and never see the playing field or I could make an adjustment to get more movement and create deception.”

The ultimatum worked. Rayburn agreed to give up throwing over the top and instead went to a submarine style and, ultimately, to a sidearm delivery.

Not that he really understood it at first.

“I thought, ‘What’s the point of being tall if I’m going to throw from down low,’ ” he said. “But then I saw the results.”

Success was not immediate, however.

He had an ugly 6.20 ERA as a freshman, with poor control — 17 walks in 24 2/3 innings out of the bullpen.

Last year, he was back in the ’pen but was vastly improved, posting a 1.57 ERA and eight walks in 23 innings.

“I remember the turning point in his career,” Pavao said. “He came in against Florida Southern last year with the bases loaded and nobody out. He struck out the side, and I knew right then that he had figured it out and, if he kept developing, he would be something special.”

Rayburn has continued to improve, turning in a dominant fall season. That prompted Pavao to move Rayburn into the rotation.

So far, the plan has worked perfectly. Rayburn pitches consistently at 88 to 89 mph and also has a cutter, slider and circle changeup.

He’s a good athlete, too. At Curley, he started at goalie in soccer, forward in basketball and also played golf and ran cross-country. It wasn’t until he arrived at Barry that he fully focused on baseball.

His only negative stat this year is six hit batters in three starts. But Pavao said that can be easily explained.

“His ball moves so much, and he’s not afraid to pitch inside,” the coach said. “He probably jams 80 percent of right-handed batters the first time through the lineup.”

Broward College

Craig Brown, a 6-5, 215-pound forward averaging 18 points and eight rebounds, has committed to Rutgers of the Big East Conference. Brown, from North Miami Beach, is the first Broward College men’s basketball player to commit to a “power six” conference in six years.

Read more State Colleges stories from the Miami Herald

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