Dillon Masters has proven himself to be a trusted reliever out of Ohio's bullpen; however, it took some time for him to earn that trust. As a transfer who had limited innings over the past few years, Masters was a risk. However, it was one Ohio is glad it took.
The sophomore from New Albany, Ohio, had to overcome an uphill mental battle with an injury that kept him from exploring his full potential in high school. However, after a few tries, Masters found himself a spot in Ohio's bullpen.
"My junior year (of high school) I was only throwing 72 mph, it was a big jump from 72-90 in two years," Masters said.
Masters could not play his senior year of high school baseball due to an ACL tear he endured while playing basketball. Nothing was worse for Masters than the feeling of being unable to play his final season with his teammates.
The rehab process took a mental toll on Masters' trust in his own ability to return to the game. But through it all, he overcame the injury and returned to the diamond a year later.
"Mentally, you can't land on your leg through rehab and that was tough," Masters said. "It was quite the wake-up call."
The second wake-up call for Masters was that he needed to take a prep year. He wasn't quite ready for Division I baseball, so he packed his bags for the Inspiration Academy in Florida. The lefty took a prep year at Inspiration Academy, where he worked to improve his pitches to get onto a Division I team.
Masters began his collegiate career at Murray State, where he saw five innings of work during his freshman year. He was still unsatisfied with where he was at in his career and looked to pitch at a higher level. Masters wanted to test the waters again and see what else was out there.
"Out of high school I was (throwing) 82-84 (mph). I felt like I hadn't reached my peak potential yet," Masters said. "I jumped up to 90 that year, so I felt like I was betting on myself once again."
After his season at Murray State, Masters took the field with the Lima Locos of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League. With the Locos, Masters put up a 5.55 ERA through 35 and ⅔ innings pitched, where the lefty struck out 36 batters.
"I had to play summer ball. I was in the transfer portal and then I had to pitch my way (to Ohio) and just put faith in myself and bet on myself," Masters said.
Masters' stint with the Locos was successful, and it caught the attention of the Ohio staff. They wanted to see what the lefty was all about. On July 1, 2022, Masters announced he was headed to Ohio.
"Nobody had ever taken a chance on me like that before," Masters said.
Masters has settled into a role as one of Ohio's primary options out of the bullpen, sometimes twice in the same weekend.
"It was good to find out that we were able to utilize him on Fridays, then bring him back on Sundays," head coach Craig Moore said after the series with Central Michigan, where Masters pitched three scoreless innings. "He did an outstanding job with both appearances this weekend."
So far, in his first season for the Bobcats, Masters has posted a 4.09 ERA over 11 innings. Over his last seven appearances, Masters has only surrendered two earned runs.
While having one of the best offenses in the Mid-American Conference, Ohio's pitching has left a lot to be desired over the course of the year. Masters has proved to be an anchor to settle to the pitching unit and keep the offense in the game.
"I wanna keep playing as long as I can," Masters said. "I couldn't see myself anywhere else than here at Ohio University."
Now that Masters is fully rehabilitated and has reached heights that no one ever thought he could, he plans to continue pitching for Ohio University and be the anchor that the bullpen needs.
The Bobcats got the arm they needed in Masters. He's ready for any situation and throws with no fear. Masters has the same confidence in himself that the Bobcats had the day they offered him a spot on the team.