RCC pitcher Walker Joyce named NJCAA DIII All-American
WENTWORTH — Over the top, three-quarters or sub-marine, it didn’t matter.
RCC ace Walker Joyce attacked hitters in 2018 and kept them off-balance with devastating movement, control and longevity.
On Monday, he was recognized for a record-setting season, after being named a third-team NJCAA All-American by the NJCAA Div. III Baseball Committee.
The Region 10 Pitcher of the Year was dominant all season long, finishing in the top ten in division III with a 2.00 ERA.
The South Rowan High School alum also finished in the top three, with 96 punch outs in 85.2 innings pitched, the fifth most accumulated by a pitcher at that level.
He was one of just four pitchers in Div. III to finish with six or more complete games this season.
“We got really lucky in getting him,” said RCC Head Coach Reece Honeycutt. “We got him late in the recruiting process during the summer. He had multiple four-year division II offers, but he wanted to get to a D-I program.”
That goal, which originally begun as a strictly traditional over-the-top pitcher, continued to evolve a year ago after a travel coach began to notice that when the stud arm played in the infield, he flashed a natural off-the-shoulder arm slot.
That’s when the righty began trying to throw different angles on the mound. And while a move like that would scare most college coaches off, Honeycutt encouraged it.
“He told me if you want to do you and pitch what you want, you can come here,” said Joyce, who added that it was that notion that led him to choose RCC. “I just love being able to do that. I feel like it gets hitters off-balance whenever I switch from all different angles.”
Once on campus, Joyce began working closely with Pitching Coach Will Greene, as well as Honeycutt, to best articulate his unique pitching traits in games.
Eventually, the coaching staff got to a point where they entrusted Joyce and catcher Christian Ruff to decide which angles to take on the pitches called from the dugout by Greene.
At other points, Ruff and Joyce would work together with the coaching staff to determine what angle or approach was most effective to specific batters.
Combined with a nasty repertoire of pitches and movement, the approach was devastating to opposing offenses, who hit a measly .214 against him.
“Walker is one of the first ones I’ve ever had as a coach that has been able to do multiple arm slots like that and not mess up his timing,” said Honeycutt. “It’s definitely rare. I couldn’t teach it, I can tell you that much.”
Joyce, who broke the school ERA, wins and strikeout record this season, put his name on the map with an unforgettable performance in game one of the NJCAA Div. III World Series – a 8-run rule shortened 9-1 win against top-seeded Herkimer.
The master of movement and control faced just five batters over the minimum, in a complete game 7-inning performance that included nine strikeouts.
Joyce told RockinghamNow that after receiving a text from Honeycutt the day before game one, he knew he had to set the tone for his team – the bottom seed team holding a record just above .500.
A squad that lacked so much respect, it took NJCAA.TV announcers three attempts to properly identify the home base of an Eagle team that shocked the local region with comeback after comeback in the conference and regional playoffs.
“I had a feeling, not to sound cocky by any means, but when we got a guy like Walker, it really didn’t matter to me who we played in the first round,” said Honeycutt. “I knew with Walker, we we’re going to have a chance against whoever we had to face.”
Peep this pitch. Rockingham gets back-to-back stikeouts! #njcaabaseball pic.twitter.com/ykQkjo4nAS
— NJCAA TV (@NJCAATV) May 26, 2018
The third-year coach, who has accumulated more than 50 wins at RCC, said that Joyce’s performance against the Generals was one of the best performances he’s ever seen in his long coaching career.
“Right now, it’d probably be the number one outing I’ve seen as a coach,” said Honeycutt. “It was a gutsy performance and he wasn’t worried about anything other than the game.”
Just how locked in was Joyce in the World Series opener?
The 6’1” right hander had no idea the game was over when he got out of a bases loaded jam unscathed in the seventh.
Now the same level of focus switches to his future. Following a brilliant freshman season, the righty has received several division I offers.
Joyce said has hasn’t made a definitive decision on if he will move on to a division I program or if he will return to the diamond for the Eagles next season.
No matter where he ends up on the mound, baseball fans can guarantee Joyce will attack the strike zone from all the angles needed to cut down opposing hitters.
“I don’t know if I’m coming back next year or not but I plan on starting wherever I go,” said Joyce. “Wherever I end up, whether it’s as a starter or in the bullpen – wherever I go I’m just trying to fill the strike zone and win some games.”
June 22, 2018