Junior right-hander Jimmy Lambert enters this season as one of the Bulldogs’ most experienced pitchers. (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)
Fresno State junior pitcher Jimmy Lambert doesn’t shy away from pressure.
Even though it can certainly mount up for a player who appeared in 17 games and started a team-high 13 like Lambert did last season. The right-hander, nevertheless, appreciates that his team trusts in him enough to put him in those tense situations.
“Any time your teammates and coaches have confidence in you to go out there and start, it gives you more confidence in yourself,” said Lambert, who has been playing baseball since he was five years old. “There’s a lot of responsibility that comes along with being a pitcher, but that’s just part of it. Whenever you decide to become a pitcher, you realize the level of responsibility that comes with it.
“I think experience helps with that a lot because now as a junior I’m able to manage some parts of the game better compared to when I was going out there as a freshman. You learn a lot about how to handle that different stuff, so I think all of us are going to benefit from that.”
The Fresno State baseball program has a rich tradition not only with winning a College World Series title in 2008, but also sending players to the next level – something that caught Lambert’s eye during the recruiting process.
“The history and winning tradition was definitely a big part [of why I came here], anything is more fun when you’re winning” he said. “It’s every kid’s dream to go play in the major leagues and Fresno has been a hotbed for professional scouts, so that all played into the decision.”
In 2015, the San Dimas, California, native posted a winning record of 4-2 to go along with a 4.66 ERA, both drastic improvements from his freshman year, but he still acknowledges that he has a long way to go to get his numbers where he wants them to be.
“You never want to be satisfied,” Lambert said. “Those [stats] aren’t good in general anyways. Definitely not happy with those, mainly because we didn’t win enough games to win the conference and move on to regionals. So all of us are definitely looking to improve our individual stats and also the team’s win percentage.”
While many of his teammates went on to play summer ball after the conclusion of the 2015 season, Lambert went back home to Southern California to give his pitching arm some time off and get his body right.
Lambert also put on some weight this offseason and significantly improved his overall strength.
“I always want to improve fastball command and command of all my pitches,” he said. “That’s definitely the big thing for pitchers. As far as getting stronger, I didn’t play summer ball last summer, so I was able to go home and really just work out. I think that was big – to get stronger moving into this season.”
Lambert has already begun to gain national attention for his play as he earned a spot as the 186th-best prospect on D1baseball.com’s top 300 prospect list for the 2016 MLB Draft.
“I’ve always wanted to play Division I baseball and move onto the next level,” Lambert said. “It’s cool to be on there but it doesn’t mean anything. You still have to go out there and play. I’m not satisfied with the number or anything so like I said, it doesn’t mean anything because you still have to go out there, play and prove it on the field. Hopefully we can do that this year.”
Lambert and the Bulldogs were picked to finish third in the preseason Mountain West poll released Feb. 16. The ‘Dogs’ three-year NCAA Tournament drought also adds fuel heading into this season.
“The main goal is to get to the conference championship and win the conference – both regular season and tournament,” he said. “That way we win a ring, which is always the No. 1 goal, and then move on to regionals and see what happens.”