BSB: Bears Add Second Crusher

BSB: Bears Add Second Crusher

Mike Neu goes back to his alma mater for the second time to snag right-hander Aaron Shortridge, who joins teammate Jared Horn as a Cal pledge.

Last spring, slight-framed Daulton Jefferies stormed onto the Pac-12 baseball scene as one of the best freshman hurlers in the league, and, at 5-foot-11, 175, the Atwater (Calif.) Buhach Colony right-hander posted a 3.45 ERA with 58 strikeouts in a team-high 92.2 innings as California’s Friday-night starter.

Last week, pitching coach Mike Neu struck again with an unassuming righty, scoring a commitment on Aug. 21 from Napa (Calif.) Vintage 2015 prospect Aaron Shortridge, who checks in at 6-foot-2, 165 pounds.

“How I see it, we’re the same – we’re smaller guys, we’re not 6-4, 240 pounds – and I like that,” Shortridge said of Neu, who got to the Major Leagues as a 5-foot-10, 190-pound closer out of Miami. “He knows that you don’t have to be massive to throw hard and get guys out and win games. Also, he played at Vintage, too, so there’s a bond there, which is awesome.”

Shortridge joins a class of Jeremiah Burks of Vacaville (Calif.) Will C. Wood, Tanner Dodson of Carmichael (Calif.) Jesuit, Ty Greene of San Diego (Calif.) St. Augustine, Pleasant Hill (Calif.) College Park's Jeffrey Mitchell, Stockton (Calif.) St. Mary's shortstop Ripken Reyes and Pinole (Calif.) Pinole Valley's Kasey Wallace.

Shortridge gained a measure of local fame several years ago, when, as a 13-year old, he tossed a perfect game for his Little League team, which made it all the way to the regional final, before being knocked out of the race for the Little League World Series.

“I threw I think one perfect game and four no-hitters in little league,” Shortridge laughed. “That was cool. My team, my 12-year old year, also went to San Bernardino for the Western Regional, and we almost got to Williamsport, but we lost to SoCal in an elimination round. Little League was crazy.”

Shortridge has developed quite a bit since his brush with youthful stardom, becoming the ace for Napa (Calif.) Vintage, pitching a team-high 58.0 innings this past season and striking out 72 to just 20 walks.

A long, loose-armed athlete with an 87-89 mph fastball, Shortridge excels at locating his pitches, and also shows a 75 mph slider, a change up and a two-seam fastball. When he’s not striking out hitters, he can pitch to contact, as he did this past May in a 10-0 win over rival Napa. Following an earlier 11-strikeout performance in a 4-0 loss to the Crushers, Shortridge recorded just one strikeout and one walk in his rematch, but induced seven pop-ups and seven groundouts.

“My go-to pitches are a location fastball and a location slider,” Shortridge said. “If those are dialed, I can throw a pitch where it needs to be thrown and get guys out.”

A high school teammate of 2016 Bears commit Jared Horn, Shortridge said that the 2016 hurler – who committed in November of last year -- has let him make his own decision.

“He actually didn’t really have any input. It just came down to a right-fit kind of thing. It’s just a plus that he’s going there, too,” Shortridge said.

Cal came out on top for Shortridge after he visited every school that offered him over the last month, including postseason regulars TCU and Long Beach State, as well as San Francisco. Shortridge was also busy in Cary, N.C., playing for Northern California in the USA Baseball National Team Identification Series, where he tossed five innings over three games.

“I got home from TCU, and then on Tuesday, I visited Davis, and three days ago, I committed to Cal,” Shortridge said. “I visited all the schools that offered me, because I wanted to get a feel for the schools. I visited Cal probably a month ago, and it just felt right. I can’t really explain it.

“It’s close to home, in the Bay Area, and I like that. I pitched on their mound in a prospect camp last summer, and it just felt kind of wholesome there, so that was cool. The campus is awesome, the facilities are amazing, and obviously, the degree at UC Berkeley speaks for itself. It’s a dream come true.”

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