BEREA, Ohio -- When there is a big game to start, or even a close one to finish, Baldwin Wallace junior pitcher Cory Waite wants to be in the center of the diamond with the baseball.
The former Willoughby South Rebel has thrown a Yellow Jackets-best, and personal record 78.2 innings this season, and carries a 7-2 record into this weekend's NCAA Division III College World Series, where the Yellow Jackets are for the first time in school history.
"If they need it, I'm willing to go for it," Waite said. "I've played this game for as long as I've known. It's always been my favorite game. I can't imagine not playing it. That's why I just want to keep going right now, keep going and see this season through because I know that day's coming, sooner or later, where you're going to be done, so enjoy the ride while you can.
"To start the year, I was not a starter. I did not get my first start till the third or fourth game of the Florida trip. After that, I've been a starter. I'm also willing to come into any situation that needs it."
Although he is a junior when it comes to eligibility, this is Waite's fourth year at Baldwin Wallace. It is the fact that he has played with some of his teammates for four years that drives him to take the ball whenever he gets a chance.
"I came in here with all the seniors," Waite said. "We came in here freshman year together. They're all leaving. I've got another year here, so I've just been doing it for them. I've played with these guys for four years now, and I don't want their season to end.
"I want them to go out in style, absolutely. If that means I've got to throw when I'm a little sore, that's fine. I'm willing to suck it up and do it."
This season, Waite has given up 27 earned runs and 70 hits in his 78.2 innings of work, and has a nearly two-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio.
And because he has thrown nearly 20 more innings than the next Yellow Jacket pitcher, Waite has the respect of his teammates and coach, Brian Harrison.
"One thing is his toughness," sophomore infielder Mark Zimmerman said of Waite. "I don't know how many pitches he's pitched in the last two weeks. He goes out there and grinds every day. Even if he doesn't have his best stuff, he still going to go out there and throw strikes and compete for us. He's that No. 1 guy that battles for us every day.
"Every time he takes the field, takes the mound, we're confident that we're going to win that game because of his mentality. The way he throws strikes, the way he pounds the zone, he attacks people, and it rubs off on the rest of the team."
Harrison said everything "starts with command" for Waite.
"Cory Waite, down the stretch, has been our guy," Harrison said. "He's wanted the ball. He's thrown in the big situations. I don't know how many pitches he's thrown in postseason baseball this year, but he's been our guy down the stretch and he's done really well.
"He just keeps the ball down. He's a fastball pitcher, kind of a sinkerball guy, gets a lot of ground balls. He commands both sides of the plate and keeps the fastball down, and creates some deception. It's really hard to hit."
Harrison said Waite goes to the fastball most often, and that, his curveball "is his best secondary" pitch. Waite also throws a change-up and a slider.
"I came in here with just the three," Waite said. "I didn't get the slider until this year. Whenever I'm playing catch, they always have us working on different grips, different movements.
"I can credit my change-up to my dad. My dad taught me a circle change-up when I was nine or 10 years old. It's just been one of my best pitches."
And as far as Waite is concerned, he wants to keep putting those lessons he learned from his father into practice all the way to a National Championship for the Yellow Jackets, which would be the first team title for the school since the 1978 football squad bought home the crown.
"Considering this program has never been there before and we're the ones to take it, it's an honor almost," Waite said. "That team last year, we still stay in touch with all the seniors, and they almost feel like they're on the ride with us. They keep in touch with us all the time. All the alumni keep cheering us on, and we have a great base of people that help us out with this thing.
"It would mean the world. Two weeks ago, we thought we were done after the OAC Tournament. I huddled around with all of the other seniors, the guys I came in here with and we were crying. We thought we were done playing, and getting this second chance, we're making the most of it."