BY STEVE KRAH
Damien Wallace is finally getting to see what it’s like to be a college baseball pitcher again.
The right-hander got to toe the rubber in the spring for Marian University in Indianapolis and competed this summer for the Local Legends in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind.
The 6-foot-5, 175-pounder made 14 mound appearances (all starts) for the MU Knights and went 4-6 with a 6.92 earned run average, 72 strikeouts and 28 walks in 66 1/3 innings.
Wallace was a once-a-week starter at Grand Park.
Before his first outing on Feb. 4, 2022, Wallace had not thrown a gameday pitch since Feb. 8, 2020 at Bethel (Tenn.).
Entering in relief in the third inning, Wallace got three outs including a pair of strikeouts. But 20 pitches in, he hurt his arm. He wound up having Tommy John (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) surgery in November 2020 and began throwing again in May 2021 while taking that season as a medical redshirt.
“It was like (2022) was my first season of college baseball,” says Wallace, who turns 22 in September and will head back to Marian in August with three years of eligibility.
Todd Bacon has been the Knights head coach since the 2014 season. The 2022 season was Jason Taulman’s second as pitching coach at the NAIA Crossroads League member school.
“(Bacon) is a real hard-nosed guy,” says Wallace. “He wants you to keep yourself accountable out there. Somebody will always be watching and know if you did it or not.
“(Taulman) is great with understanding the game of baseball. He knows that not every pitcher is the same. We have an open relationship with him. You get what you want to get out of the program from him.”
Throwing from a high three-quarter arm slot, Wallace uses a four-seam fastball (which got up to 92 mph in the spring), a two-seamer, slider and curveball.
“My two-seamer has normal run action,” says Wallace. “It comes in on a right-handed batter (and away from a lefty). I have two separate grips for the slider — sweeping and a two-seam slider (which is thrown harder). My curveball is like 1-to-7 is a more vertical than my slider.”
As a student, Wallace is about a year from completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Performance. After that he says he is leaning toward pursuing a Psychology degree.
“Being hurt and going through the whole injury progression has brought to light the psychological part and understanding the mind of the athlete,” says Wallace. “I like being able to dive deep.”
He has already taken psychology classes, Exercise and Sports among them.
Born in Indianapolis, Wallace spent his early years in Normandy Farms around the Traders Point area. In elementary school, he moved to Richmond, Ind., for a few years and then back to Indy.
He played at Eagle Creek Little League and was on teams that lost in the major state championship when he was 12 and won back-to-back junior state titles when he was 13 and 14.
His travel ball experiences include the Indy Thrashers then the Chad Newhard-coached 17U Indiana Nitro in the summer of 2018 and occasional appearances with the 18U Indiana Astros in the summer of 2019.
A 2019 graduate of Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter High School, Wallace was on varsity for three years including the 2017 season when the Raiders won the IHSAA Class 2A state championship. Senior Blake Malatestnic was the winning pitcher in the title game. Alex Vela, a 2017 Ritter graduate, went on to play at Ivy Tech Northeast Community College in Fort Wayne and the University of Indianapolis, is an assistant this summer to Local Legends head coach/manager Adam Cornwell.
Dave Scott was and still is Ritter’s head coach.
“Hands down he is one of my favorite coaches,” says Wallace, who was chosen for the 2019 Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series. “He loves the game and loves teaching it right.
“Making the game fun is one of his biggest things. Treating the game with respect is another thing.”
Damien is the son of Sarah Dufek. His stepfather is Craig McIntyre. His mother helps run the family business, Andy’s Backflow Irrigation. Siblings are Layla Shoemaker (11), Liam Shoemaker (8) and Lachlan McIntyre (4).