Call him Austin Wood and Mike Belfiore before there was Austin Wood and Mike Belfiore.
Last year—on May 26—Chris Matlock
's Central Missouri Mules faced off against Sonoma State in a 19-inning classic.
Matlock—the team's closer—pitched 9.1 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits, walking two, and striking out 13.
The sidearming right-hander had a solid 2008 season, but he was even better in 2009. Matlock posted a 6-2 record, 14 saves, and a 1.19 ERA in 53.0 innings. Over that time, he allowed just 22 hits, walked only four, and struck out 79.
The performance was good enough to earn Matlock Division II Pitcher of the Year honors.
Lone Star Dugout chatted with the reliever after he was drafted by the Rangers earlier in the week.
Jason Cole: Can you give me your thoughts on getting selected by the Rangers in the draft?
Chris Matlock: I know they're a good club. All my coaches said they were pretty interested and that it'd be a good place to go. They have a real good club. I was pretty excited when I found out.
Cole: You went in the 21st round. Did you get picked around where you were expecting to go?
Matlock: Actually some other teams said something about between 10 and 15. But I wasn't going to let it get to me. I know whatever it's going to be is what it's going to be. After like the 10th round, I stopped watching. Dustin Smith called me up and said, ‘Hey, you got drafted in the 21st round.' I was like, ‘Oh, cool!'
Cole: How much have you talked to the Rangers since you were picked?
Matlock: Dustin has actually called me twice. Both days I guess. He's actually supposed to call me back today so we can finish up some stuff. We'll go from there.
Cole: Had you talked to the Rangers much during your collegiate season?
Matlock: Actually, not until it was over. I hadn't talked to anybody until it was over. Dustin called me up and asked if I was ready to play professional baseball. I said, ‘Yeah, sure.'
?Cole: Tell me a little about your stuff, such was what pitches you throw and the speeds you usually work at.
Matlock: Usually my fastball—I throw sidearm so everything moves different and at a different angle. I usually sit between—it goes from like 82-87 [mph]. That's my four-seam. The two-seam usually sits 84 or 85 and it dips down and in to a righty. The slider is a big, sweeping curve-like slider that just kind of moves across the plate. I start it behind hitters and it goes in for a strike. I think that one usually sits around 74. It's not too fast but it seems to work pretty well. And then I actually throw a knuckleball, which usually works most of the time.
Cole: You throw a knuckleball from the sidearm angle?
Cole: How is that? Does it move or come out any differently than an overhand knuckleball would?
Matlock: Sometimes I'll play with it like three-quarter and it's a lot different. I'll usually throw it to a lefty. It kind of goes down-and-in sometimes. I throw it up there and it just kind of does what it wants.
Cole: When did you start throwing it?
Matlock: I actually was playing around with it around my junior year of high school. I was just kind of messing around with it while playing catch. It started working. After I started throwing sidearm, it just started working. I hadn't thrown it much in junior college, and then once I got out of junior college I started throwing it more. I just kind of stuck with it and it's kind of a good changeup pitch.
Cole: How often do you end up using that in games?
Matlock: I guess it depends on if it's working that day. If it is, I throw it a lot actually. If it's not working—I only throw a couple of innings usually—I probably throw it two, three, or four times.
Cole: I read that last year you went 9.1 innings in relief as a closer. I don't know if you heard about the Texas/Boston College game that went 25 innings and both of the closers went over nine innings. Have you heard about that?
Matlock: Yeah. Actually, I was at a workout for the Royals with the catcher from Boston College that caught that game.
Cole: Were you kind of saying, ‘Hey, I did that the year before'?
Matlock: Yeah. I heard about it and I was like, ‘Oh, sounds like what I had to do.' We had to play until 3:30 in the morning. It wasn't fun playing that late. You just kind of get lost in it and you don't realize what time it is. I never looked at the innings. I just knew I had to go back out there.
Cole: Is that one of those deals where adrenaline just takes over?
Matlock: Pretty much. The adrenaline was just going, and you get to the part where you keep going back out there and hoping that somebody is going to push a run across. It didn't work out for us when I was pitching. I guess it wasn't supposed to happen.
Cole: Tell me about what your thoughts were on your collegiate season this past year.
Matlock: It was pretty good going into it. I think I ended up with 26 innings without allowing a run last year, and it cut across into this year. I made it all the way up to 42 innings consecutively without allowing a run. That was our MIAA conference record and school record. My last run allowed last year was to Emporia and I gave up my first run this year to them. I was kind of like, ‘Well, Emporia's got my number.' But then after that inning, I had another 26-inning scoreless streak before UNO [Nebraska-Omaha] got that in the conference tournament. It was a good year. I take pride in not walking people. I think that's what I do best. I don't like to walk people at all. I like to go at people and challenge them and see if they've got it.
Cole: You were named the Division II National Pitcher of the Year. What are your thoughts on getting that honor?
Matlock: That was pretty cool. There are a lot of good pitchers out there. To even be considered for it is a pretty big deal. To get that was a pretty good feeling.
Cole: Being a senior, can you talk about your chances of signing with the Rangers?
Matlock: I knew I just wanted to play. I know seniors kind of get the back burner a little bit because they don't really have anything else to do. But I just want to play. It worked out pretty well.
Cole: Are you planning on signing within the next week or so?
Matlock: I think so. He's calling me back today to figure out when that's got to get done. I should know more within a couple of days, but yeah, I'm pretty sure that it'll probably be within the next week or so.
Cole: Have you guys discussed at all where you'll be playing once you do get signed?
Matlock: I guess Spokane, Washington.
Cole: I assume they'll be leaving you in the bullpen?
Matlock: Yeah, he said I'm going to be the closer up there.
University of Central Missouri pitcher Chris Matlock was recently named the ABCA Pitcher of the Year in NCAA Division II. On Wednesday, he was taken by the Rangers in the 21st round of the MLB Draft. Lone Star Dugout spoke with him on Thursday afternoon.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with sidewinding reliever Chris Matlock, the Rangers' 21st round pick