BY STEVE KRAH
Ryan Pepiot enjoyed visiting Midwest League baseball parks as a kid.
He went to see minor leaguers in South Bend, Fort Wayne and Dayton.
“Now, I’m playing here and it’s pretty cool,” says Pepiot, a first-year pro in the Los Angeles Dodgers system.
A hard-throwing 21-year-old right-handed pitcher, Pepiot is with the Midland, Mich.-based Great Lakes Loons.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder throws from a high three-quarter arm slot and sports a four-seam fastball that ranges from 93 to 96 mph and a “circle” change-up with depth and fade that moves at 83 to 85 mph to go with a sweeping slider and “1 to 7” curveball.
Pepiot (pronounced Pep-E-Oh) was selected in the third round of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Dodgers out of Butler University in Indianapolis.
LA’s first-rounder — Griffith (Ind.) High School graduate and former Tulane University slugger — Kody Hoese — is now Pepiot’s Great Lakes teammate.
After four appearances and five innings in the Arizona League, 2016 Westfield (Ind.) High School graduate Pepiot was sent back to the Midwest, where the weather is not as hot and he’s closer to family and friends.
The son of Mike and Christine Pepiot and older brother of Kyle Pepiot has hurled a pair of two-inning stints with Great Lakes — the last on July 25 — and sports a 2.00 ERA, combining the AZL and MWL. He’s currently on a limit of about two innings per outing.
Asked about his best qualities as an athlete and Pepiot is quick to answer.
“I’m a great teammate, a big time competitor and very hard-working,” says Pepiot, who played for head coach Ryan Bunnell as a Westfield Shamrock.
“I like Coach Bunnell,” says Pepiot. “He’s really personable. He knows the system and knows the guys. He’s doing a fine job over there in a really tough (Hoosier Crossroads) Conference.”
Pepiot learned much from travel ball coaches Chris Estep and Scott Shirley in a long tenure with the Indiana Mustangs (9U through 17U) and competed for the Mike Hitt-coached Indiana Blue Jays prior to his freshman year at Butler.
Recruited to the Bulldogs by Steve Farley, Pepiot adjusted when Dave Schrage took over the Butler program prior to his arrival on campus.
“I went into it with an open mind,” says Pepiot of the change. “I looked at it as a clean slate and a chance to impress coaches.
“I wanted to make way into the starting rotation and I did that as freshman.”
Pepiot honed his craft in the New England Collegiate League with the Keene (N.H.. Swamp Bats) and in the Cape Cod League with the Hyannis Harbor Hawks in the summers following his freshman and sophomore seasons.
“I checked all the the boxes at Butler,” says Pepiot.
As a freshman in 2017, he led the team in starts with 13 and went 4-4 with a 4.39 earned run average and 79 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings.
He followed that up as a sophomore in 2018, by going 6-0 with a 2.62 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings in 15 games (12 starts).
Pepiot’s junior campaign in 2019 saw him post a 4-4 record, 3.92 ERA and 126 K’s and 78 frames in 14 contests (all starts).
Always an aggressive pitcher, Pepiot says he appreciates how the Dodgers emphasize throwing strikes.
“Some pitchers throw around the zone,” says Pepiot. “The strike zone is our friend.
“We want to win the race to two strikes.”
Great Lakes won the Eastern Division title in the Midwest League’s first half and is guaranteed a playoff berth. The regular season concludes Sept. 2 (Labor Day).
When the season is over, Pepiot is slated for a month back in Arizona for the instructional league. He is not sure yet where he will train during the off-season.
The next steps on the Dodgers organization ladder above Great Lakes are Advanced Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Though he won’t be able to do it it this year, Pepiot does plan to go back to Butler to finish his degree. He is 21 credits shy as a finance/marketing double major.
Mike Pepiot is is in automotive sales. Christine Pepiot is is a special education teacher at the elementary level.
Outfielder/right-handed pitcher Kyle Pepiot was part of the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series and is heading into his freshman year at Butler.
The Pepiot brothers were teammates for one season at Westfield. The younger brother has also picked his older brother’s brain about the next level and taken live batting practice against him.
“He’s a quiet kid,” says Ryan of Kyle. “But he is one of the hardest-working kids I know.
“He’s going to do some big things at Butler and really surprise some people.”
Ryan Pepiot, a Westfield (Ind.) High School graduate who played at Butler University, is now a pitcher in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. (Great Lakes Loons Photo)
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