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Aaron Shortridge

Aaron Shortridge, selected in the fourth round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft in June, spent the 2018 summer as a starting pitcher for the West Virginia Black Bears, the Class A short season affiliate of the Pirates’ organization. 

Aaron Shortridge said being selected in the fourth round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft in June made for an “awesome day.”

“I was just happy to be a part of it, and happy to be able to have an opportunity to play professional baseball,” the 2015 Vintage High School graduate said last week. “It’s something I’ve been dreaming about since I first started playing baseball.”

The Pirates on June 12 announced that they signed Shortridge, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-hander, who was named honorable mention on the Pac-12 All-Conference team as a junior for Cal in late May. Shortridge, who pitched three years at Cal, was the 10th player taken in the fourth round and the 114th overall selection in the annual draft. He was 5-3 with a 2.77 earned run average in 17 appearances as a junior for Cal this past year. He made 12 starts and threw three complete games.

Shortridge signed at PNC Park, the Pirates’ home ball park. He said he received a $475,000 signing bonus. Details of the contract were not disclosed.

“I think the more exciting part was actually getting out to pro ball and pitching in games and competing with the best,” he said. “I’m just so thankful for the opportunity and thankful to the Pirates for giving me a shot.”

Shortridge, 21, spent the 2018 summer as a starting pitcher for the West Virginia Black Bears, the Class A short season affiliate of the Pirates’ organization. The Black Bears, based in Granville, West Virginia, play in the New York-Penn League. They play their home games at Monongalia County Ballpark.

Shortridge made eight starts and had a 1-1 record with a 2.67 earned run average. In 30 1/3 innings, he allowed 27 hits and 10 runs (nine earned), walked seven and struck out 38 batters. Opponents batted .231 off Shortridge.

The regular season ended on Sept. 3.

“I think it was a good professional debut,” he said. “I think there are things I could have done better and improved on. I think I got better in a whole lot of ways. I added a pitch and I think I got stronger.”

Shortridge added a curveball. He throws four pitches – fastball, changeup, slider and curveball.

Shortridge, an All-Monticello Empire League selection for Vintage in 2014 and 2015, did not make a start for the Black Bears after his last appearance on July 28.

His innings were limited, due to his college season at Cal.

“It’s a building-up process,” he said. “They look at innings over a three-year span.”

Shortridge threw a team-high 91 innings for Cal. He struck out 74 and walked only 18 batters.

He completed the college season by throwing a complete game shutout and leading the Bears over Arizona State in a regular season finale, 3-0, at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on May 26. In becoming the first Cal pitcher to throw a complete game shutout since 2016, he allowed six hits, walked one and struck out five while throwing 103 pitches. He got 14 groundouts and six fly-outs while facing 32 batters.

It was the third complete game of the season for Shortridge, who began the season as a reliever and was credited with two saves.

“He’s had such a great year,” Cal head coach Mike Neu, a Vintage High graduate, said in a Napa Valley Register story in June. “He gave us a chance every single time against really good competition. It was fun to see him progress, and go from being a reliever who helped us so much, to a starter to really being our most consistent pitcher. It was great to see his elevation.

“By the end of the year, we felt like any time he took the mound, we were going to win. The consistency of coming out every week and pitching so well was just really, really impressive.

“He was just really competitive in the strike zone. He understood what he needed to do. I’m sure that we helped him in some areas. But I think that most of the credit goes to just him really making the most of an opportunity that he was given.

“He had such an amazing year.”

Shortridge spent the summer before his junior year at Cal as a starting pitcher for the Eau Claire Express, a team based in Wisconsin that plays in the Northwoods League. It’s a developmental league for college baseball players. It was there that he said he found his rhythm.

“I kind of just found my stride,” he said. “I was throwing late into games, throwing strikes, and had good control. I was having success in that league. It was just a lot of hard work and kind of finding the mechanics of my windup and my stretch. And I started throwing harder.

“I just carried that into Cal, throughout fall ball, that next year, and then into spring. And by that time, I had spent a lot of time working in the weight room and the training room, getting strong and staying athletic and mobile. It all kind of came together and allowed me do the most that I possibly could for my teammates and my team that spring.”

Shortridge had several strong outings for West Virginia.

He pitched five shutout innings and got the win in a 4-0 road victory over the Williamsport Crosscutters. He allowed just two hits while striking out seven and walking no one.

Shortridge pitched five innings, allowing one earned run on three hits, while striking out nine batters in a no-decision against the host Staten Island (New York) Yankees. He did not walk anyone.

West Virginia lost, 6-3, at Richmond County Bank Ballpark.

He allowed one earned run on three hits in five innings in a no-decision in West Virginia’s 5-4 loss to the Batavia (New York) Muckdogs.

West Virginia finished the season at 32-44.

Shortridge has spent parts of September, October and November training and working out at the Pirates’ minor league complex in Bradenton, Florida.

“I’m doing everything in my power to continue having success in baseball. That’s what the offseason is for,” said Shortridge. “Whatever it takes … I’m willing to do it.”

Shortridge reports to spring training in either February or March.

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Executive Sports Editor

Executive Sports Editor Marty James has been with the Napa Valley Register since 1979. He is a member of the Associated Press Sports Editors, California Prep Sportswriters Association, and the California Golf Writers Association. He was inducted into the