Voss, Burmaster among Fredonia’s long lineage of stellar pitchers
The school of aces, Part I
Editor’s Note: This article is the first of two parts, chronicling the recent success of Fredonia Hillbillies baseball pitchers making the leap to the college baseball scene. Look for the second part of this package in Monday’s OBSERVER.
With former Fredonia starting pitcher Trey Swartz committing to play college baseball at Erie Community College, he becomes another name in a now long line of Fredonia pitchers who are off playing at the next level.
Cam Voss, Jarod Burmaster, Reid Tarnowski and Derrick Walters all went on to commit to various colleges to pitch. This pitching lineage is not only a testament to the Fredonia baseball program, coaches Vince Gullo and Charlie LaDuca, but to the talent that can come from this smaller area of New York.
Just because all of these former high school aces committed to play at the collegiate level however, does not mean they’ll be successful once they get there. For three of them, success has come almost immediately, with the fourth one still waiting in the wings.
Cam Voss was the first in line, leaving Fredonia after the 2014-15 school year as a four-year starter for the Hillbillies. Voss finished his Fredonia career with a 28-4 record, pitching to a 1.63 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 205 innings. You don’t have to look at Voss very long to see the physical assets he has and how he put up those dazzling numbers.
“He’s built like a pitcher, a tall lefty with big thick legs. But he also hid the ball well and had the potential to throw hard. Everyone looked and saw his potential,” said Fredonia pitching coach Charlie LaDuca.
Voss, while maintaining his size and experiencing a big spike in velocity once he got to college, remains as soft-spoken and humble as ever. However, he still comes with the same competitive edge — the ‘bulldog’ nature as described by coach Vince Gullo — and the composure of the high school freshman who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning of the State Championship game. Although that and his other no-hitters aren’t Voss’s favorite memory from Fredonia. It was the winning that he remembers most fondly.
“(My best memory) has to be winning the State Championship my sophomore year. I’ve thrown two or three no-hitters, but they don’t feel the same,” Voss said.
Voss has bounced around since leaving Fredonia in 2015, but he’s had success wherever he has been. Originally committing to play college ball at Mississippi State out of college, Tommy John surgery cut that engagement short.
“After I tore my UCL, that was the most humbling experience I’ve had in baseball. Getting the game taken away from you… You just appreciate it so much more when you can’t play it,” Voss said.
As college baseball is a business, Mississippi State didn’t want to keep Voss on the roster while injured all season, which forced Voss to go elsewhere. While Voss said this was tough on him, he’s happy with how things turned out.
“If that didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be where I am now,” Voss said.
While Voss missed a year of action with the injury, it didn’t stop him from putting up his typical numbers at his new home of NCCC once he got healthy. Voss came back after his return from Tommy John surgery and was excellent, including throwing a nine inning masterpiece in 2018, against Hudson Valley Community College. Voss pitched a full nine innings, allowing only one hit, one run, and striking out 20 batters in what was an elimination game for NCCC.
“It was a win or go home game, and I really didn’t want to go home,” Voss said.
After two seasons pitching at NCCC, Voss moved on to his new — and still current — home at East Stroudsburg and is continuing to stand out, as he enters his senior season. The coaches at East Stroudsburg went to NCCC looking to scout some of Voss’s other teammates, but Voss caught their attention throwing a couple bullpen sessions.
Voss says he is extremely comfortable with his new Pennsylvania home.
“(I came down) for a visit and I fell in love. I love it here. That was the main part of finding a school this late is picking the place I felt the most comfortable,” Voss said.
Voss said his biggest adjustment to collegiate baseball wasn’t the quality of players, as he noted the competition level of baseball in this part of New York has been stellar for the last 20 years. Rather, the biggest adjustment was the grind of the season. Voss was a three sport athlete in high school, playing football and basketball in addition to baseball, but once he got to NCCC, the focus was all on the mound.
“It becomes a grind. When you go the Junior College route, sometimes you’re playing eight to 10 games a week just to get all the games in,” Voss said.
That grind has led to the payoff of four years of very fond memories. Voss’s goal entering his final season is simple: He wants to enjoy it. While he believes no pitcher is ever complete, not even pros, his ultimate goal isn’t necessarily to get drafted.
“If something happens, it happens. If not, I’m okay with it. I can only control what I can control,” Voss said.
If there is one thing we know, it’s that with Voss in charge, there isn’t much he can’t control.
It is fitting that Voss was succeeded by Jarod Burmaster at Fredonia, who also wound up at NCCC, where he remained Voss’ teammate for two more seasons.
“We go back to before little league. This was like the first time in seven years we haven’t been teammates,” Burmaster said, talking about Voss, who he called a “brother.”
Voss played a large role in Burmaster’s growth at Fredonia and his eventual commitment to NCCC. Burmaster was originally leaning toward playing at Medaille, but thanks to Voss and the NCCC coaching staff, Burmaster elected to try out the junior college route.
Burmaster is the kind of guy “everyone would like to coach,” according to LaDuca. He was described by both LaDuca and Gullo as the hardest working athlete they have ever coached.
“One of his first years with us, he walked up to me, put his hands on my shoulders, looked me in the eye and said ‘I want to know everything about pitching,'” LaDuca said about Burmaster.
Checking his numbers, it’s clear Burmaster learned quite a bit. Burmaster ended his Fredonia tenure with 129 innings pitched, posting a 17-4 record with an ERA of 1.52 and a 1.05 WHIP.
That statement of “wanting to know everything” is only a glimpse into Burmaster’s dedication to his craft. While he was still in high school, he was the leader of a group of kids who would continue to work after practice, whether it be hitting the batting cages or the gym.
His hard work and extra effort paid huge dividends while at Fredonia. Burmaster was part of the 2012 Fredonia team that captured the State Championship, which is Jarod’s fondest memory from Fredonia. He was the main catalyst for Fredonia’s 2016 State title run that fell just short in the championship game. Burmaster was nothing short of dominant that entire post-season until the final game at Maine-Endwell High School in Binghamton.
“He carried us,” Gullo said.
During that 2016 run, Burmaster pitched the game of any other pitcher’s life in the state quarterfinal against Livonia. But for him, that was par for the course.
“That game against Livonia was one of the five best high school games I’ve ever seen,” said LaDuca.
Burmaster was electric, pitching the full seven innings and getting the victory in a 1-0 decision, out-dueling Livonia’s ace Reid VanScoter. Burmaster gave up just three hits, walked one batter, and struck out 10 on the way to victory. He also watched the winning run score while he was standing in the on-deck circle.
“Once that run came in, I went back to the coaches and said ‘pinch hit for me, I just want to focus on pitching,'” Burmaster said.
And focus on pitching he did that day, stifling the favorite’s bats, which all came down to the game plan coach LaDuca had put in place for Burmaster going into the game.
“I watched tape of them — and no doubt they were great — but no one they played pitched them inside. I knew we could get them off balance jamming them in. It’s one thing to set up a game plan, but another for the pitcher to execute. Jarod executed,” LaDuca said.
It might have been a surprise how well Burmaster executed that day, considering how his pre-game preparation went.
“My bullpen was awful before that game. Charlie walked back to Gullo and said ‘oh no, we’re in trouble.’ Something just clicked after that,” Burmaster said.
That game and his freshman year championship are the two mot notable feathers in Burmaster’s cap. His hard work, aided with games like that, are what led Burmaster to end up playing Division 1 baseball.
After electing against attending Medaille and throwing for two years at NCCC, Burmaster had a few Division II offers, including being one of the teammates Voss had visiting East Stroudsburg, but he pushed himself for more. He almost ended up at school in North Carolina, then over last summer, Burmaster was pitching in Florida and his old coach at NCCC, now a coach at Canisius, found him.
“Brandon Bielecki found me down there, gave me a call, and it worked out. Our manager is a Southern Tier guy too. It’s a good atmosphere, I knew it was the best fit for me. They push us pretty hard,” Burmaster said, who is happy not only for the D-I offer, but also staying close to home. Burmaster wasn’t scouted heavily after his junior season of high school, but still ended up pitching D-I.
Burmaster noticed the difference in competition level, but like Voss, the biggest adjustment for him was the year round commitment to pitching. But those things also come with some nice benefits.
“I got to play at huge stadiums, like Kentucky and Indiana. That was really cool,” Burmaster said.
Entering his senior season at Canisius this upcoming year, Burmaster has a pretty big goal: He wants to get drafted. And he knows he’s capable. After pushing himself from high school, to junior college, to division one, Burmaster not getting drafted won’t be for lack of effort.
“I told myself ‘you’re gonna shoot and make the best for yourself.’ I’m out there to prove myself every day. I always push myself to get better. If someone beats me in a sprint, I’m kind of mad at myself,” Burmaster said.
Burmaster won’t be disappointed if he doesn’t get drafted, he knows the odds are against him. But that definitely won’t stop him from taking his shot.
“I’m going to work towards it and try my hardest. I don’t expect it, but it would be a dream come true, but I won’t hang my head over it,” Burmaster said.
Burmaster definitely has the skills and mentality. LaDuca doesn’t think they make them like Burmaster anymore.
“It’s very hard now to find kids who will stand on the mound, look the hitter in the eye, and say ‘let’s go, it’s you and me.’ Jarod is that guy,” LaDuca said.
Guys like Voss and Burmaster, and Weston Ley and Trent Thompson before them, were the trend setters for Fredonia’s recent string of success. They are the seasoned vets who paved the way for the younger generation to come in and take the reigns of success.
“Every year we had leaders, guys who the other guys looked up to. Young guys see the leadership and work ethic, and they just keep following in each other’s foot steps,” Gullo said.
If Voss and Burmaster are any indication of the quality of pitchers Fredonia produces, the next generation should have a lot in store.