Last season, sophomore right-hander Cameron Weston was entrusted with the kind of assignments that would make a veteran’s palms sweat.
He made his first-ever appearance in the season opener against Vanderbilt and let in two runs on a seeing-eye single and a squeeze play, blowing the Michigan baseball team’s one-run lead and subsequently being replaced. The next day, when Cal Poly loaded the bases and sent the winning run to bat in the ninth inning, Weston entered the game and induced a groundout to earn the save.
By the end of the shortened season, Weston had made seven appearances, including one start and two saves, and finished with a team-leading .90 ERA over 10 innings of work. He’d proven himself to be a talented and situationally versatile pitcher against NCAA Regional-caliber competition.
Despite his solid play last year, Weston seemed destined to play a smaller role coming into the 2021 season. Redshirt sophomore left-hander Steven Hajjar and senior right-hander Blake Beers had strong seasons as the number two and number three starters, respectively, and it appeared redshirt sophomore Ben Dragani would round out the rotation when he returned from Tommy John surgery.
Additionally, junior right-hander Willie Weiss missed the 2020 season with a tricep injury, but would take over the closing duties in 2021. Squeezed out of the starting rotation, it looked as if Weston would become one of many right-handed pitchers looking for relief work.
Dragani did join the rotation and Weiss did become the closer, but Weston hasn’t been on the outside looking in. After a strong offseason, he earned the number two starter position — and he’s made the most of the opportunity. He leads all Wolverine starting pitchers with a 2.72 ERA and 43.1 innings pitched, and he’s tied for the lead in quality starts with four.
Even though Weston’s season began with a 4.1-inning, four-run loss against Iowa, Michigan coach Erik Bakich wasn’t concerned.
“(He) showed some flashes of either outstanding stuff or pitching out of a jam or overcoming some type of adversity,” Bakich said. “But mostly (he) showed something that would lead you to think that there’s going to be a lot of success in the future.”
Weston followed up his first start with three consecutive wins against Purdue, Illinois and Penn State, averaging seven innings per start and a 2.14 ERA during that stretch. As the schedule began to feature more three-game series and the rotation downsized accordingly, Weston kept his starting job.
“We know that Hajjar and Weston will go game one and game two,” Bakich said earlier this season. “And I think we’ll have to figure out … who’s going to be the best third starter.”
Weston rewarded Bakich’s trust with back-to-back gems against Ohio State and Minnesota, throwing 13.2 scoreless innings, striking out 13 and scattering just 11 hits. He solved early-season control issues and walked only four batters between the two starts. Perhaps most impressively, he kept the ball almost exclusively on the ground, allowing only seven fly-ball outs in that stretch by keeping his fastball, slider and forkball down in the strike zone.
Weston has come a long way from his first appearance, when he was outplayed by the Commodores’ safety squeeze. Now he’s the veteran, and he’s outplaying his opponents with ease.