The Herald’s Baseball Player of the Year: Soledad’s Segura thrived in big moments

SOLEDAD – His earned run average was as nasty as his selection of pitches. With each start, Eric Segura was expected to flirt with perfection.

Oh, the Soledad High pitcher was human, losing two games – one of which Segura allowed just one hit.

Yet, his full body of work provided the Aztecs with 12 wins when he pitched, including an impressive effort in the team’s win over top-seed Santa Teresa of San Jose in the playoffs.

“More and more scouts have started to take notes,” Soledad coach Damien Ryan said. “He has a high baseball IQ. He doesn’t try to do too much. It’s part of his mental makeup.”

His physical talents at the plate and shortstop were equally impressive as Segura was named The Herald’s Baseball Player of the Year.

Eric Segura made his reputation pitching but also was a tough out. (Courtesy photo)
Eric Segura made his reputation pitching but also was a tough out. (Courtesy photo)

Having already committed to play baseball in 2024 for Oregon State, the junior flashed college-level potential all season, posting a 0.67 earned run average.

“Before committing, you go through the pressure and stress of making a decision,” Segura said. “With that out of my mind, I was able to just focus on my pitching. I felt more relaxed.”

The 6-foot-2 right-hander, who has a 92 mph fastball, is part of the reason Soledad is moving into the more-competitive Gabilan Division next spring.

Segura struck out 121 hitters in just 73 innings, firing a pair of no-hitters – including a perfect game – and three one-hitters.

“We didn’t pitch him against some of the teams that struggled,” Ryan said. “We did not feel it would be in his best interests.”

Instead, Segura would start at shortstop, where he possessed one of the best gloves in the area and hit a team-high .470 with 38 hits.

“I’ve accepted the fact that I will likely be just a pitcher in college,” said Segura, who hits in the No. 3 slot. “But I love to hit. It’s a part of my game.”

Segura is clearly in his comfort zone when standing on the hill. He relishes the responsibility of having the ball in his hands with each pitch.

As hard as the 17-year-old throws, it’s his secondary pitches that put him in command when he is on the mound.

“The objective is to get outs,” Segura said. “That starts with getting ahead in the count. When I throw a change-up, it induces a lot of slow ground balls to my infielders.”

Of course, when your velocity is at a major league level, a fastball with movement is nearly unhittable.

“I’m not looking for strikeouts,” Segura said. “But if I feel the hitter can’t hit my fastball, I will blow it by them.”

Six times Segura recorded 10 or more strikeouts in a game, including a season-high 14 in a win over Alisal that secured the Aztecs a playoff spot.

“My mindset has really advanced since last year,” Segura insisted. “I have grown up and gained more knowledge. My mechanics have gotten better.”

That was evident by the number of first-pitch strikes Segura threw this past spring, often relying on the change-up to fool hitters.

“I have the same arm slot in my mechanics,” Segura said. “So everything looks the same when I release it. The objective is to not pitch from behind in the count.”

Segura estimates that 40 percent of his pitches are change-ups, dividing up the other 60 percent among fastballs, sliders and curves.

“His focus is to get stronger and better fundamentally,” Ryan said. “We are teaching him the craft of pitching. It’s about his second and third pitches, having command of them.”

Segura will spend the off-season continuing to sharpen his pitching mechanics, improving his velocity and getting stronger going into his senior season.

“People have fallen in love with his fastball,” Ryan said. “I’ve been trying to tell people he can play the game. He’s an athlete.”

That showed up in the batter’s box as Segura drove in 26 runs and scored 36 while stealing 13 bases and hitting his first high school homer.

“That was a highlight,” said Segura, in speaking about his home run.

So was beating Santa Teresa in the postseason.

“That sticks out the most,” Segura said. “They were the top seed. It was playoff baseball. Is there anything better?”

While radar guns will likely begin to pop up next year when Segura pitches, the potential of being drafted in 2023 isn’t even on his radar.

“I haven’t taken it into consideration,” Segura said. “Independently, I’m going to keep grinding. I want a league title. I’ve played with these boys my whole life. My dream is to win a (Central Coast Section) title. Let’s do something special together.”

Contributed by local news sources

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