CHATHAM, NJ - When Matt Stamford stands on the pitcher's mound for Chatham, he displays a certain smoothness with his delivery that portends that he has it all together. And he does.
But it wasn't always that way for the senior left-hander, who matured as a person and an athlete since joining the varsity baseball team as a freshman.
"My freshman year, I didn't put the effort into school that I needed to and my parents talked to me about applying myself," he said. "I've gotten into a routine with my schoolwork and baseball and it taught me diligence. If you stick with that schedule, results will come. I took that mindset to school and because of that I'm going to achieve my dream and pitch in college."
Stamford, who has earned a scholarship to Lehigh University, is still receiving the fruits of his labor on the baseball field. On May 14, he threw the first no-hitter of his career in a game played at Delaware Valley, striking out 11.
He followed that on Monday by pushing his hitless-inning streak to 11 during four-innings of one-hit pitching that earned him the win for Chatham in the state tournament against Rahway.
Matt Stamford is the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week.
"Matt had an unbelievable year last year (when he was 7-0) and chances are he's having an even better one this year," Chatham coach Todd Leathers said. "He works harder than everybody, he's put the effort in. He's done it for four years. You can see the results. In the offseason, in between starts, he's lifting, he's doing his work. Everything he does with pitching he does with a focus and purpose. That's what it takes to be what he is, one of the best pitchers in the state."
The 6-4, 205-pounder went through a rigorous schedule over the winter to prepare for his senior season. The schedule included: Yoga on Monday; weightlifting Tuesday through Friday; throwing to get his arm in shape on Saturday, and conditioning on Sunday.
"The yoga helps with overall flexibility," Stamford said. "Pitching puts your body in a lot of really unnatural positions. Being flexible reduces the soreness.
"The main thing is being consistent with your delivery and, for me, having consistent mechanics. If you have consistent mechanics, it eliminates a variable and you can be smooth with your delivery. One thing people say about me is my mechanics are very smooth. I've worked at it for very long time. We were going over some old pictures for the team banquet and my delivery hasn't changed much since I was 12."
The numbers he puts up have been smooth as well. Using mostly a fastball and a curve, Stamford has gone 10-1 over the past two seasons in helping Chatham's baseball revival. A year ago, the Cougars reached the state sectional final as Stamford compiled a 7-0 mark
"We were 4-20 my freshman year," Stamford said. "Having two really good seasons in a row, I'm really excited for the program as a whole and the direction it's going."
Through 47 1/3 innings of pitching in 2018, the Chatham ace has carved out a 1.18 earned run average and a minuscule WHIP (hits and walks per innings pitched) of .845. He's allowed 25 hits and eight earned runs over that stretch, striking out 69 and walking 15.
His teammates have come to count on excellence from him on the mound, but he doesn't view the high expectations as a negative.
"Honestly, there is not much pressure," Stamford said. "I've pitched in big situations and the game doesn't change at all. You're playing the same game, no matter what. There is pressure, but nothing I can't handle.
"Baseball has definitely taught me some important life lessons. How to handle different situations. It kind of teaches you to be mellow and realize there are a lot of things you can't control. It can be frustrating, but you have to get over it."
Stamford claims some inherited athletic ability from his parents, such as the height he gained from his 6-6 father, Andy, who is from Australia, and his mother, Lisa, who rowed through high school and college.
"A lot of my pitching delivery is natural, a high three-quarter angle," he said. "When my curve is on, it's a really good pitch for me, it has more of an 11 to 5 movement. I have complete trust in Luke (catcher McCorry) to catch the curve wherever I throw it."
Editor's note: The Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week is sponsored by the John Hawk Agency. John and his team have been protecting local families and business owners for over 12 years. Call them at 973-635-9494 for a new auto, home, life and business insurance quote this week and if you mention the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week they will make a $20 contribution to the Chatham Booster Club! To learn more, visit the agency website.