By STEVE KRAH
Sam Klein keeps getting more stingy as his college baseball career progresses.
The Ball State University right-hander missed the first month of the 2023 season working out some soreness.
He got into his first game March 19 and has worked stints of 4, 2 2/3, 3 2/3 and 3 1/3 innings.
For a team that is 23-9 overall and 10-2 in the Mid-American Conference heading into a three-game MAC series Friday through Sunday at Central Michigan, Klein is 3-0 with one save an 0.66 earned run average.
He has 16 strikeouts and five walks in 13 2/3 innings. Opponents have hit .196 with eight singles and two doubles.
All 38 of Klein’s appearances for the Cardinals since 2021 have been out of the bullpen with the last two being BSU’s closer.
That has caused him to develop a mindset.
“You have to do your job or else you’re not going to win the game,” says Klein. “My job is to go out there and compete.
“I use my natural competitive nature to help myself on the mound. I’ve only thrown the last four weeks. I’m getting back into the role.”
Born in Tennessee, Klein grew up in Bloomington, Ind. He played his early baseball at Winslow Sports Complex and competed in the Monroe County Youth Football Association.
As a teenager, he began travel baseball — first for Demand Command then Diamond Dynamics and the Troy Drosche-coached Indiana Bulls.
A 2020 graduate of Bloomington High School North, Klein lost his senior prep season to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a junior, he went 6-0 with one save and a 1.31 ERA for the Richard Hurt-coached Cougars. He produced 51 strikeouts and nine walks in 32 innings. A shortstop when not pitching, Klein hit .333.
In his first college season of 2021, Klein took the bump 11 times and posted a 1-0 mark with one save and a 5.52 ERA. He whiffed 12 and walked 11 in 14 2/3 innings.
In 2022, Klein made 23 appearances and went 4-3 with 11 saves and a 3.18 ERA. He fanned 47 and walked 21 in 34 innings. Foes hit .179.
His career WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) is 1.32.
Klein has become accustomed to how Ball State head coach Rich Maloney and pitching coach Larry Scully will use him.
“Usually if it’s a close game in the seventh inning I’ll come down to the bullpen and start stretching out,” says Klein. “If (the game is) tied or it’s a save situation I’ll usually go in.”
A 6-foot-3, 210-pounder, Klein uses three pitches from an over-the-top arm slot — a rising four-seam fastball clocked at 90 to 93 mph, a 12-to-6 slider that looks like a curveball and a change-up with drop and arm-side movement.
Last summer Klein pitched for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the Cape Cod League, making five appearances (four as a reliever) with no decisions.
“It was a great experience,” says Klein. “It was really good competition. The coaches and players all know what they’re doing.”
In the summer of 2021, Klein took the mound seven times (all starts) for the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League’s Hamilton (Ohio) Joes and went 5-0 with a 1.84 ERA. He had 55 strikeouts and 15 walks in 44 innings.
Klein, who turned 21 in January, is eligible for the 2023 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
But he is focused on the here and now.
“If I do well out here that helps my chances,” says Klein. “I don’t tend to think about much about it while I’m playing.”
Sam is the second of three children born to teachers Bill and Brittany Klein.
Professional baseball player Will Klein (Bloomington North Class of 2017) is the oldest and prep softball/volleyball athlete Molly Klein (Bloomington North Class of 2025) the youngest.
Will Klein, 6-foot-3, 230-pound right-hander, was a mound standout at Bloomington North and Eastern Illinois University and was taken in the fifth round of the 2020 MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals.
He was with Double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2022 then pitched in the Arizona Fall League. The 23-year-old begins 2023 at Northwest Arkansas.
“He’s a little stronger than me and throws harder,” says Sam Klein of Will. “He relies on (velocity) a little more than I do. I’d like to think I have a little more command than he does.”
Like his brother, Sam is a Biology major.
“It was my favorite thing in high school,” says Klein, who is considered a sophomore academically and athletically. “I stuck with it.”