Josh Cohen (senior) carried the Occidental baseball team to victory by pitching all nine innings during games against Claremont March 25 and the University of La Verne March 30. The team won 11–2 against Claremont and 5–4 against La Verne. Cohen’s pitching in these games represents both his training and commitment to the team, according to associate head coach Jesse Rodgers.
Before the game against Claremont, Cohen said that he worked on a plan with pitching coach Aaron Milam to prevent the other team’s best hitters — Chase Eller, Trey Smith and CJ Novogradac — from recording any hits.
“I really focused on not letting those guys beat me and then based on the plan that the pitching coach and I developed, we did a really good job of neutralizing them,” Cohen said.
The game against La Verne was significant, according to Cohen, because the Tigers were only one place behind La Verne in the conference and needed to win the game to move up. At the end of the game, the team was able to make a comeback after Bryan Smith (junior) hit a three-run home run that put the team in the lead.
“Josh kept us in it, we did not play good defense but he continually made big pitches and we were able to do just enough offensively to come out with a win,” Rodgers said.
Teammate Dean Abramson (senior) said that Cohen has made a lot of progress as a player since he joined the team as a first year.
“I think he’s probably, without a doubt, the leader of the pitching staff,” Abramson (senior) said. “He’s the most obvious bright spot on our team. He’s kept us in a lot of games that we don’t deserve to be a part of and I think himself, he’s been performing pretty well even by his standards.”
Abramson, a friend and teammate of Cohen, said that Cohen has pitched entire games several times during his time on the team, which is uncommon for collegiate baseball players. According to Abramson, Cohen’s strong pitching helps limit the number of runs the other team is able to score and acts as a defensive strategy when the team is falling behind offensively.
Pitchers need to be efficient when pitching an entire game, which can be around 100 to 120 pitches, according to Rodgers. He said that Cohen’s performance reflects his strong work ethic and how much detail he puts into his preparation before each game and pitch.
“In the game, it’s really effective because you can just hand him the ball and know that he’s going to take it to the finish line,” Rodgers said. “And then because he plays in game one out of three, he allows the bullpen to be saved for games two and three which gives the team a boost on Saturday because he can take the whole game on Friday.”
Cohen said that he has been pitching since he was 9 years old and playing baseball from an even earlier age. Some of Cohen’s role models have been former pitcher Scott Erickson ’16 and Washington Nationals’ pitcher Max Scherzer. Cohen said that they are examples of pitchers who have stamina and throw better at the end of their games than at the beginning.
“It’s kind of a mentally exhausting thing to throw all nine innings, but kind of the way I go about it is one inning at a time, as if I’m closing,” Cohen said.
Rodgers has coached Cohen since his first season at Occidental and said that Cohen has grown as a player and person over his four years on the team. While he did not play as much during his first two years on the team, Cohen took that time to train, and his work has paid off during his junior and senior year. According to Rodgers, even when the team makes errors or does not score runs, Cohen remains unfazed and continues to pitch to the best of his ability.
“He’s unshakable. He’s a great example for all the players, especially the young ones. A great story of someone who comes and wasn’t a significant contributor to the game and progressed to be our best pitcher this year,” Rodgers said.
Abramson said Cohen sets an example of how to act as a member of the team and he exemplifies the commitment necessary to grow as a player.
Cohen said that his time on the team has been a significant part of his college experience and that one thing he learned while on the team was to have patience and trust the training process.
“The work that you do your freshman and even sophomore year will most likely pay off your junior and senior year because you have the chance to play a lot more and show the accumulation of work you’ve done prior to getting a role on the team,” Cohen said. “It pays off in the end.”