The best pitcher in college baseball this season isn’t located in Fayetteville, Nashville, or Starkville. He isn’t performing in front of thousands each and every time he takes the mound. And though he will hear his name called in the early rounds of the MLB Draft, he isn’t solely focused on the preparation necessary for a future in MLB.
The best pitcher in the country is Noah Song, a senior on the Navy baseball team, and an aspiring helicopter pilot who will head to Pensacola later this fall.
There is another former service academy pitcher already “taking off” in Pensacola in Air Force’s Griffin Jax, who is currently dominating for the Minnesota Twins organization as a member of the Double A Blue Wahoos.
We would like to congratulate @Gjax_22 for receiving Pitcher of the Week honors in the Southern League while pitching with the Pensacola @BlueWahoosBBall. He went 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA over 12 IP and struck out 7. Great job and keep up the good work, Griffin! #PSIFamily #milb #mlb pic.twitter.com/1gGubcCAw2— PSI Sports Management, Inc (@PSISports) May 6, 2019
Jax is a part of the Air Force World Class Athlete Program, which allows “airman-athletes” who could potentially help their country in international competition (aka the Olympics) train for their sports full-time. This isn’t another article on the path to professional athletics for service academy graduates, but it is an observation that there has been recent success in pursuing this opportunity now that baseball is once again an Olympic sport.
That is in stark contrast to someone like Mitch Harris, a 2008 graduate of the Naval Academy who served nearly the entirety of his five-year commitment before pursuing professional baseball and making it to the big leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals. The commitment for a naval aviator is eight years from when you earn your wings, so it will be interesting to see what Song’s path looks like once his collegiate career is over, but for now, it would be a disservice to the young man to not simply marvel at what he has done on the pitching mound this season.
Navy baseball has had its share of great starting pitchers in the last decade. The aforementioned Harris started the run in the mid 2000’s. A sophomore season in which he went 10-3 with a 1.74 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 13 starts established him as a force to be reckoned with. He would eventually get drafted in the 13th round by the Cardinals after his senior season. At the same time, Oliver Drake, who played two years for Navy before being drafted in the 43rd round by the Orioles and choosing to go the professional route, was on the Navy squad with Harris.
Just an interesting side note, Drake became the first person in MLB history to play for FIVE MLB teams in the same season last year. And he thought the military PCS life was going to be rough. That’s a lot of moving around.
Then there was Luke Gillingham, a southpaw, who like Harris, was a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award and won the pitching triple crown within the Patriot League his junior season. He had 8 wins, a 1.19 ERA, and 111 strikeouts on the season. His hits per 9 innings and WHIP led the NCAA that year.
I bring up the recent history of Navy pitching greats because what Song has done this season completely blows them out of the water. Like he’s launching a barrage of hellfire missiles from the helicopters he wants to fly in the future level of blowing them out of the water. That’s not a knock on any of those three former Navy greats. It’s just a testament to how dominant Noah Song has been in 2019.
This week he was the third Navy player to become a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award following Harris and Gillingham, and he should absolutely be named a finalist if people can get past the “inferior competition” debate. I’m not even going to go there. When you’ve got IT, you’ve got it. And Song has IT.
#NavyBaseball's Noah Song Selected as a Semifinalist for the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award #RaiseTheSail https://t.co/B2F90Z3Aw2 pic.twitter.com/GKApp3u0uI— Navy Athletics (@NavyAthletics) May 15, 2019
By the way, you should absolutely go vote for Song for the Golden Spikes award while we are talking about it!
The list is out and the names are— Golden Spikes Award (@USAGoldenSpikes) May 15, 2019
Vote for your favorite #GoldenSpikes semifinalist: https://t.co/zEMZ5RSXpg pic.twitter.com/VHYyvqwVKn
The number of scouts lined up behind home plate at recent Navy home games would suggest it’s not the inferior competition that is elevating his numbers and draft stock.
It’s the fact that he is flat out filthy, with a fastball that hits 95 on the gun and a brutal breaking ball that hitters have no chance against. And perhaps his most deadly asset is his impeccable control and location.
Let me just give you a quick rundown on his stats this season:
He has 150 strikeouts in 87 innings pitched. ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY, which is good for first among all D1 pitchers.
He is 11-0 on the year, and his 11 wins are also good for first in the NCAA.
His ERA is 1.03.
In 87 innings pitched, he’s given up a total of 10 runs all season. That’s good for second in the country, and first for starting pitchers. The one guy ahead of him, Chad Sykes for UNC Greensboro, has almost half the innings pitched as Song with only 48.
Opponents are batting a measly .156 against him, which is good for 5th in the country. He has given up a grand total of 9 extra base hits all year. That’s less than 1 every nine innings, meaning at best, you might get one double off of him in an entire game.
And speaking of entire games, he is second in the country with 6 complete games on the year, and tied for first with 2 complete game shutouts.
D1baseball.com has moved Song up to number one on their list of pitchers this season, and it’s pretty easy to see why.
We ranked the nation's Top 100 Starting Pitchers:>>>— D1Baseball (@d1baseball) May 15, 2019
The Top Five:.
1. @NavyBaseball's Noah Song
2. @HailStateBB's Ethan Small
3. @WVUBaseball's Alek Manoah
4. @LouisvilleBSB's Reid Detmers
5. @BaseballUGA's Emerson Hancock.
Here's the rest: https://t.co/r0ZA6J5Sm8
Song and the rest of the Navy baseball team will face off against rival Army this weekend in Annapolis in a best of three series to determine who wins the Patriot League and gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
It all comes down to this! Navy Baseball takes on Army West Point this weekend in the Patriot League Championship with an automatic NCAA tournament bid on the line!— Navy Athletics (@NavyAthletics) May 16, 2019
Admission to all three games is FREE!#RaiseTheSail pic.twitter.com/65tYpSvSEz
The latest D1baseball projections have Navy in as a 4 seed in a regional with UC Santa Barbara in Las Vegas. UCSB is their 16 seed meaning the weakest of the number one seeds. I know I’m biased towards wanting Navy to win the Patriot League this weekend, but let me try and explain why that goes beyond just wanting to see my alma mater in an NCAA regional.
I believe that between the two schools, Navy has the best chance to win a game in a regional because well, no one has been able to beat Noah Song this year. Regardless of which #1 seed they would inevitably play in the first game, Navy can win, because Noah Song is that good.
I’m writing this before the Patriot League tournament because Army beat Navy in the regular season this year and there is a chance this Friday will be the last time Noah Song starts in his collegiate career and he deserves more recognition for the work he’s done on the mound this year.
But I’m also writing because there is a chance Navy wins and some seeded team will be hosting a regional with the most dominant pitcher in college baseball this season, and he won’t be on their team.
So, let’s Beat Army so we can show the rest of the country what the dozens of scouts in attendance on weekend series openers for Navy this season already know:
Noah Song is the best pitcher in college baseball!