Paul Kosanovich may have the most interesting journey to Keene of any of this year’s Swamp Bats players.
A two-sport standout at his hometown high school in Temple City, Calif., he’s gone from being a football player in New Mexico, to a junior college baseball player in Los Angeles, to a Division I pitcher in Virginia, and, finally, a member of the Bats’ starting rotation in Keene.
His long cross-country trip has shown him that nothing in life is guaranteed and everything has to be earned, a philosophy he brings every time he steps on the mound.
“It’s kind of just kept me on my toes,” Kosanovich said. “I had to earn my spot in all three places, so it’s definitely given me a chip on my shoulder to go out and play.”
The grandson of Bronco Kosanovich — an offensive lineman who played for both Penn State and the Pittsburgh Steelers — Paul Kosanovich started his college career as a tight end on the New Mexico Highlands University football team. He played one season on the gridiron, finishing with six catches, 45 yards and one touchdown, but ultimately decided there were more opportunities for him in baseball.
He returned to the diamond and chose the junior college route with a transfer to East Los Angeles College. After completing his last season of junior college eligibility with the Huskies — earning First Team All-State and All-Region Second Team honors — he moved his way up to NCAA Division I ball at the University of Virginia.
“I did some research on [Virginia], learned about the program and the coaches and how successful they’ve been, and as a pitcher, in my head, there was no way that I shouldn’t take this opportunity,” Kosanovich said.
Playing his first season with the Cavaliers as a junior in 2019, the 6-foot-4 right-hander made 16 appearances, including one start, and went 4-0 with a 4.85 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 26 innings of work.
Now a rising senior, Kosanovich is one of the elder statesmen in the Swamp Bats’ rotation, one of just three Keene pitchers about to head into his final year of eligibility (Central Connecticut State’s Peyton Stephens and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Erick Zecha — a Keene native — are the other two).
But that extra time under his belt means Kosanovich’s focus is intense. He knows what he wants to improve on during his time in the NECBL, changes he can make and take with him back to Virginia for his senior year.
“It’s definitely getting my command back with all my pitches,” Kosanovich said. “And then also just a couple mechanical things, just to take some stress off my arm.”
After a pair of shaky starts to begin the season — where he gave up 12 runs (8 earned) in nine total innings — he seems to have made some progress after his outing Tuesday night against the North Adams SteepleCats, even if the final score wasn’t to his liking.
He pitched longer than any game this season, lasting 6.2 innings in a tight, low-scoring affair at Alumni Field. He gave up three earned runs on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts.
“He just pitched,” Swamp Bats Manager Gary Calhoun said. “He didn’t overthrow; he threw a lot of good changeups in my opinion. He threw curveballs for strikes, sometimes to lead hitters off, and when you do that kind of stuff, jeez, you’re gonna do well usually.”
Kosanovich nearly escaped the seventh inning with a 3-1 lead, but the Cats’ Andrew Pedone slapped a two-out single to right that drove in Matthew Koperniak, and Kosanovich was pulled at a 102-pitch count with runners on first and second. One of those runners scored the tying run after reliever Michael Bacica hit the first two batters he faced.
The game went down as a no-decision for Kosanovich, and the Bats ultimately lost to North Adams in 11 innings, 4-3. But Calhoun said Kosanovich should focus on the positives and continue to move forward from this game.
“Just how he did it,” Calhoun said, “Hopefully he’s perceived that, and tries to achieve that every time out and just pitch.”
All that said, Kosanovich knows this is still a team game. His long, unique journey has taught him not to take anything for granted, not even a team loss with the asterisk of a good individual performance.
“Really, when it comes down to it, it’s about the team,” Kosanovich said. “I’ll definitely break it down when I’m on my own and find some things that I liked or didn’t like, but overall, it’s a team loss, everybody played their part. I don’t want to be the guy to take away, ‘Oh, I pitched great, but we lost.’ We lost as a team.”