Former Southeastern pitcher Sceroler makes Orioles opening day roster

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Sceroler, Mac

HAMMOND, La. – It has been a whirlwind offseason for former Southeastern Louisiana pitcher Mac Sceroler.

The three-year letterman transformed an unexpected opportunity in something much bigger, jumping from one of the lower rungs of the minor leaguers to the Opening Day roster of Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles in the span of one year.

“It is such great emotions, being able to call home to tell my parents and grandparents the news,” Sceroler said.

A Rule 5 Draft pick, the Orioles plucked Sceroler out of the Cincinnati Reds organization in early December with the fifth overall selection. He had last pitched in a countable game for the Daytona Tortugas of the High-A Florida State League in September of 2019 after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 minor league season.

“I knew my role as a Rule 5 guy,” Sceroler said. “There were going to be a lot of eyes on me. I reported in good shape and then struggled for one or two outings. I made some adjustments, found my groove and started throwing well.”

The knowledge of how to handle the situation came from within Sceroler’s family and support system. His uncle, Ben McDonald, was the former No. 1 overall pick in the 1989 MLB Draft and went on to pitch for nine seasons at the Major League level, seven of them with the Orioles.

“We stayed in contact throughout the spring,” Sceroler said. “He told me how to handle it and how to carry myself. This is super exciting because of our family history with Baltimore and I’ll be able to pitch in the same stadium as Ben.”

McDonald experienced the same whirlwind tour following his junior year of college. A consensus All-American and the Golden Spikes Award winner, McDonald made his Major League debut just three months after the Orioles selected him first overall in the draft.

“The thing about being a Rule 5 pick is you either stick with the big-league club all year, or you get sent back to your original organization,” McDonald said. “Mac knows this is an opportunity to get your foot in the door. He’s jumping from A ball to facing the best hitters in the world. He’ll have to learn on the fly the best he can.”

With a huge jump in the talent levels comes a learning curve.

“The biggest difference is the discipline of the hitters,” Sceroler said. “They don’t chase close pitches. In the minors, you can get away with poor execution on a pitch. That doesn’t work up here. I was putting pressure on myself to be perfect. I had to refocus and go back to my old approach. After that, I started attacking with my fastball and other pitches. Being put in those situations has made me a better pitcher.”

It is the same approach that paid off for Sceroler in high school, college and the minors. At Southeastern, he earned multiple postseason awards – including Freshman All-American – holds the program record for consecutive scoreless innings (36.2), ranks in the Top 10 in both single-season (10) and career wins (22), and is one of just five pitchers in program history to record at least 10 wins and 100 strikeouts in a single season.

“A lot of scouts asked about him, his makeup and mentality,” Southeastern head baseball coach Matt Riser said. “He was our ace on the 2017 NCAA Regional club. What did I tell them? You’re always going to get his best effort and he knows how to handle failure. Every time he took a step backward, he took two more forward. He was the ultimate competitor.”

Sceroler was drafted twice during his time with the Lions, ultimately signing with the Cincinnati Reds organization after they selected him in the fifth round of the 2017 MLB Draft.

Now the right-hander from Denham Springs, Louisiana has locked up a roster spot with an Orioles organization that is currently taking a ground-up approach to rebuilding the franchise.

“It’s a dream for a lot of kids,” McDonald said. “Thousands have worked really hard and few make it. Mac was fortunate to be picked up by a club that can provide some opportunities. They’re in a rebuilding process and are stockpiling pitching talent, looking to develop young guys. Right now, general manager Mike Elias has cultivated the No. 5-ranked minor league system as far as talent.”

Baltimore’s brass filled Sceroler in Monday on his expected role for the 2021 season, letting him know he’d made the roster. Opening Day for the Orioles is Thursday in Boston with a 1:10 p.m. first pitch against the Red Sox.

“They had me building up my endurance throughout camp, working with the starters,” Sceroler said. “I’ll be working in long relief out of the pen, throwing a couple of innings at a time.”

Sceroler has worked primarily as a starter throughout his career, although he did serve as the Lions’ closer on their record-setting 2015 club.

“He’ll have to make adjustments,” McDonald said. “The minor leagues are more structured, throwing every four or five days. They try to keep you in a routine. The big leagues aren’t like that. As a Rule 5 guy, he may not pitch for six or seven days and then work twice in a four-day span. Mac’s been told he’ll work in long relief and as a middle guy. The bullpen is a good place to get your feet wet with some low-leverage situations before you step it up.”

Despite the uncertainty that can come with his new role, all of Sceroler’s supporters believe he’s more than capable of handling this new challenge.

“Whether it’s Rule 5 or being drafted and called up right after college, it’s still pitching in the big leagues,” Riser said. “Obviously the Orioles are rebuilding and they think Mac can be a big part of that. It goes back to his dedication and hard work. I think he’s going to have a lot of success, with many more years and innings to pitch up there. I’m super proud of Mac and what he has accomplished.”

And for all the hard work, Sceroler had the same to say about the role Southeastern played in helping him reach his Major League dream.

“My time at Southeastern was so important in this process,” Sceroler said. “The impact Coach Riser, (former pitching coach Daniel) Latham, (current pitching coach Andrew) Gipson and Mamou (former assistant coach Kaleb Manuel) had in getting me here can’t be overstated.”

Southeastern returns home next weekend to host McNeese in a four-game series at Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field. Games are scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. Friday and a single game at 1 p.m. Saturday. The first game of Friday’s doubleheader is slated to be a seven-inning contest. If the first game goes extra innings, the second game would then become a seven-inning affair.

All remaining home games are slated to be broadcast on ESPN+.

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