Plum grad Gino Marra relishes experience during 1st season at UNC Asheville - Plum

Plum grad Gino Marra relishes experience during 1st season at UNC Asheville

Trib logo Michael Love

Friday, May 22, 2020 | 2:33 PM

Gino Marra is set to spend a majority of his summer on the gulf coast of Florida.

The Plum graduate and left-handed pitcher for Division I UNC Asheville hopes several weeks of work during his first foray into collegiate summer baseball will help him take the next step in his mound maturity.

“Right now, for a lot of people, it’s make or break,” said Marra, who had a win and made six relief appearances as a freshman during the shortened 2020 season. “My goal right now is to hit the weights and get stronger. I also expect to get more experience facing these good college hitters. I know I have the pitches I need, and I am excited to see how much better I can get.”

The Florida Gulf Coast League, Marra said, is expected to field nine or 10 teams with games played while following all of the required safety regulations.

When the college season was canceled March 12, Marra took a break to give his arm some rest, but he soon was putting in work several times a week. He threw live Monday at Plum High School with some former Mustangs teammates.

“I got in some good innings. It was nice,” said Marra, who expects to again be considered a freshman next spring as he recoups the year of eligibility.

Marra said he felt confident entering his first collegiate season.

“During high school, I had three pitches, but I didn’t throw my change-up as much,” he said. “I didn’t have a good feel for it to be able to throw it for strikes. Last summer, I went down to UNC Asheville for a class, and I also worked on my change-up during that time and through the fall. When the season started, I had that change-up down to a T. That really helped me with developing my own game for this season and for (future) seasons.”

Marra settled into a role as a long reliever.

After a rough first outing in the Bulldogs’ loss to Samford on Feb. 14, Marra roared back eight days later and pitched 413 innings of relief with one earned run and four strikeouts as UNC Asheville rallied past UAB.

“They told me that as long as I pounded the strike zone, I was going to get outs,” Marra said. “I want to get first-pitch strikes and throw as many strikes as I could and let the batters get themselves out.

“During an after-game talk on the bus ride home, coach (Scott Friedholm) mentioned that it was my first win. It was a great feeling to celebrate with my teammates who were clapping and congratulating me.”

Friedholm said the accolades for Marra were well deserved and showed the type of collegiate pitcher he can become.

“I thought Gino did a tremendous job,” Friedholm said. “He did have a couple tough outings, but that happens, especially for a young player like Gino. When you are a reliever, one rough outing can really trump your numbers.”

Marra worked 10 1/3 innings and finished with a 6.97 ERA, 11 strikeouts and five walks. He pitched two innings with two strikeouts and no earned runs in the Bulldogs’ 9-2 win over Coppin State on March 8.

UNC Asheville won three of its final four games to finish 5-11.

“He never really gets too up or too down,” Friedholm said. “That’s what you want in a pitcher. He does show emotion when he gets fired up for his teammates. He’s always about his teammates first.

“With Gino’s work habits and his work ethic, he never stops trying to better himself. That is one of those things we love about him.”

Marra said while he will do anything to help his team win, his goal is to be a starter. That is a goal, Friedholm said, he can achieve.

“I truly believe Gino has a chance to be a starter for us because he can throw three pitches for strikes,” he said. “Anyone with a good change-up can pitch at any level. But it is up to him and the work he’s willing to put in.”