Dustin Longchamps is a pitcher for all seasons. He’s also proving that there is more than one highway leading to life as ace of an NCAA Division I pitching staff.
Through two seasons of fall ball at Central Maine Community College and a summer sweating it out in a semipro league in Athens, Ga., Longchamps never abandoned his dream of playing college baseball at the highest level.
He’s making it come true this spring as the No. 1 starter for University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, a program located in Princess Anne, Md., that is slowly gaining momentum in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
“I’m just trying to keep my (earned run average) down and give my team a chance to win,” Longchamps said.
So far, so good for the 5-foot-10, 180-pound right-hander from Lewiston.
Maryland-Eastern Shore has already matched its victory total from 2005 with six, and with Longchamps weaving half those wins, the 20-year-old newcomer is a primary reason. He’s 3-3 with a 5.83 ERA, tops on the staff, and has hurled a pair of complete games.
“The first time I saw him, I could tell what a competitor he was,” said Bobby Rodriguez, Maryland-Eastern Shore’s third-year head coach. “His attitude will take him a very long way, regardless of the number of victories he gets.”
Longchamps took the long way to a career matching wits with hitters from Virginia, West Virginia and Navy. But he’s actually not the first local player to make the jump from the Central Maine club team to Division I.
Nate Olson of Poland was a teammate of Longchamps at the Auburn school before transferring to Long Island University. Now playing at Albany as a senior, Olson mentioned Maryland-Eastern Shore to his friend after LIU won two-out-of-three in a weekend series against the Hawks last March.
“He said the team needed some pitching and he recommended it to me,” Longchamps said. “I thought it would be a good chance to play Division I baseball.”
Rodriguez networked with the CMCC athletic staff and was sold on Longchamps after watching one of his summer starts.
By the time Longchamps toed the rubber for his first preseason workout, his new coach had all but anointed him the Hawks’ go-to guy.
“Once I saw him work out in our bullpen for the first time, I knew we had something,” said Rodriguez, previously an instructor in the Baltimore Orioles organization. “I thought he was a great acquisition and that we were very fortunate to get him.”
There have been speed bumps in his development, such as Saturday’s 26-15 loss to the University of Maine. Longchamps surrendered nine hits and nine earned runs while working only 3 1/3 innings of the slugfest.
His two preceding starts were stellar, however. Maryland-Eastern Shore has averaged more than 10 runs per game in Longchamps’ three triumphs, but he hasn’t needed that much support.
Longchamps spun six innings of four-hit ball in a 15-1 victory over Buffalo on Feb. 25. He permitted only one earned run while fanning eight March 18 in a 6-2 verdict over Delaware State. One week later, he went the distance in a 10-3 rout of Coppin State, striking out three and walking one.
Delaware State and Coppin State represented conference victories for the Hawks, who are 6-21-1 but tied for third at 3-3 in the mid-major MEAC.
“I’m pitching against pretty good competition. I mostly (rely on) trying to spot my fastball,” said Longchamps, who says he trips the radar gun in the mid-80s.
Longchamps, who is a junior in terms of collegiate eligibility, doesn’t lack experience being the best pitcher for a program with room to grow. He once threw a one-hitter and lost while at Lewiston High School, which struggled on the diamond during Longchamps’ career from 2000-03.
The next fall, Longchamps spun the first no-hitter in CMCC history.
“He has stepped into that No. 1 hole and accepted the challenge,” Rodriguez said. “Hopefully we can recruit more pitchers to surround him as he continues to gain confidence.”