VIBI hurler has the right stuff

Vancouver Island Baseball Institute pitcher Adam Paulencu throws at practice last month at Serauxmen Stadium. The big right-hander is attracting interest from major league scouts this season.

Vancouver Island Baseball Institute pitcher Adam Paulencu throws at practice last month at Serauxmen Stadium. The big right-hander is attracting interest from major league scouts this season.

The scouts sure like watching Adam Paulencu – maybe more Nanaimo baseball fans will want to get a look.

Vancouver Island Baseball Institute gets only eight regular-season games this spring at Serauxmen Stadium, so there are limited opportunities for fans to cheer on the team and see the Mariners’ pitching ace on the mound.

“This kid’s legit…” said Jordan Blundell, VIBI manager. “The community has two chances to see a potential big leaguer on the mound in Nanaimo.”

The M’s are still buzzing about Paulencu’s most recent start last Sunday in Kamloops against the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack. There, Paulencu limited a dangerous lineup to one hit over a seven-inning complete-game shutout, while walking none and striking out nine. What’s more, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander blew threw the outing in just 77 pitches, never getting to a three-ball count.

“I was throwing a lot of strikes, throwing three pitches for strikes, kept them off-balance,” Paulencu said. “By the end of the game they were just guessing at what was coming so that makes my job a lot easier.”

After a strong season in 2010 that culminated with a national championship for the VIBI Mariners, Paulencu has gained a reputation among opposing hitters. Some batters get intimidated, others get geared up to face the ace.

“You’ve just got to pound the zone, change speeds,” Paulencu said. “There’s no one I can’t beat if I do that.”

That’s the attitude he’ll take this season and beyond. He has accepted a scholarship to the University of Nebraska at Omaha, but has a chance instead to be drafted and play professional baseball.

So the decision to come from Sherwood Park, Alta. to Nanaimo and play in the Canadian College Baseball Conference seems to be working out well.

“The league’s been getting better every year I’ve been in it…” he said. “It hasn’t really been given as much credit as it deserves but people are starting to take notice.”

Playing within the Mariners program has benefited Paulencu’s development, he said.

“They definitely harp on working hard and getting better … Some of the schools down [in the U.S.], if you have a bad outing you might not get another chance, but here they stick with you and give you more chances to get better.”

The fact that VIBI is among the league’s top contenders doesn’t hurt.

“It’s definitely important to show that you know how to win,” said Paulencu. “You’ve just got to find that balance between impressing the scouts and winning ball games for the team.”

He trusts his teammates have his back – they were “on lockdown” in the field behind him in his last start, so he can concern himself with just throwing strikes this season.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Paulencu said. “We’ve got a lot of talent on this team. We are better than last year, so hopefully we can repeat as champs and have another great season.”

GAME ON … Paulencu is scheduled to start Sunday (April 10) at 11 a.m. in the first half of a doubleheader against the Calgary Dinos. The series starts on Saturday (April 9), when the M’s play the Dinos  at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. at Serauxmen Stadium.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com