Urckfitz and Lancaster claim California League crown
Patrick Urckfitz knows how to save his best for last. As a junior college player, he came out of the bullpen for Monroe Community College and helped the Tribunes finish third in the 2008 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) World Series. Four years later, the left-hander hurled a pair of scoreless frames in the deciding game of the 2012 California League Championship.
Urckfitz shut down the Modesto Nuts in the sixth and seventh innings for a hold, and the Lancaster JetHawks went on to win 3-2 in the third and final game of the California League series. The win clinched the first championship in Lancaster’s 17-year existence.
“It was really rewarding,” Urckfitz said recently by phone. “I hadn’t made the playoffs up until then, That was fun to be a part of.”
After losing the first game of the post-season, the JetHawks rattled off eight wins in their nine contests.
“We got really hot,” Urckfitz added. ”Everything came together at the right time.”
In all, the fifth-year veteran hurled five and two-third innings in five post-season appearances for the JetHawks without allowing a run in the playoffs.
“It feels good that the manager has trust in you at anytime to give you the ball and go out there in a lot of different situations” Urckfitz explained.
The left-hander led Lancaster with 45 appearances on the mound during the 2012 season.
Urckfitz finished the regular season with 62 strike outs and 21 walks in 66 and a third innings of work. The nearly three to one strike out to walk ratio has been consistent throughout his career. In 2010, Urckfitz fanned 107 while issuing 33 free passes in 109 stanzas.
“I definitely have individual goals going into the season,” Urckfitz explained. “That stat is important. If you keep that pretty good then your numbers overall will be pretty good in general. The walks will kill you. It’s about keeping them off the bases.”
Urckfitz signed a free agent deal with the Astros in July of 2008. He made 15 appearances that summer with the Greeneville Astros of the Rookie Appalachian League fanning 23 in 19 innings of work while notching an ERA of 1.40. The southpaw finished 1-0 with three saves for the campaign.
The Penfield, New York native started 2009 in Class A and led the Lexington Legends pitching staff in appearances (42) and saves (13). In 49 innings of work Urckfitz compiled a 4-1 record with a 2.57 ERA while striking out 42 and walking 13. The lefty earned Legends’ Pitcher-of-the-Month honors for May going 1-0 with four saves and an ERA of 0.71 for the month.
Urckfitz opened the 2011 campaign with the Corpus Christi Hooks of the Double-A Texas League before getting called up to Triple-A Oklahoma City on June 16th. His stay in Triple-A lasted just 10 days.
Next year will be his sixth in the Houston system. Urckfitz will be eligible to sign with another organization after 2013. He is looking forward to earning his spot in spring training.
“Nothing is guaranteed,” Urckfitz added. “It’s just show up and compete. You got to go in there and keep proving yourself.”
Proving has become increasingly difficult in the Astros’ system over the past season and a half. In four separate trades the parent club has acquired more than ten veteran minor league pitchers.
“At times it’s tough,” Urckfitz continued. “The main thing I learned is to focus on what I do on the field. Keep everything else out of your mind.”
Urckfitz tossed 11.3 innings of relief surrendering just one run while striking out 15 in the 2008 NJCAA World Series. Third-place marked the best finish in Monroe’s history.
Prior to signing with Houston, Urckfitz fanned 25 in 14.2 innings of work with the Webster Yankees of the New York Collegiate Baseball League. Opposing batters hit just .207 against the lefty.