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'One of the best I've ever coached': Duke baseball's Bryce Jarvis emerging as a star

After breaking out in last year's NCAA tournament, Bryce Jarvis has been a dominant force for Duke this season.
After breaking out in last year's NCAA tournament, Bryce Jarvis has been a dominant force for Duke this season.

Editor's Note: This article was written before Duke Athletics suspended, and eventually cancelled, all sports for this academic year due to the spread of coronavirus.

On Duke’s campus, everyone instantly knows who is being talked about when someone says “Tre” or "Vernon." What many are not aware of is that there is another superstar student-athlete who is quietly shining just a few steps up the walkway from Cameron Indoor Stadium. 

His name is Bryce Jarvis.

Jarvis may not be a household name just yet, but if he continues to follow his current trend, he is well on his way. The casual fan likely first discovered the Franklin, Tenn., native Feb. 21, when Jarvis had a date with destiny and threw a perfect game against Cornell in some of the most imperfect pitching conditions one could imagine. 

Although that February performance was one of the rare times one gets to actually grasp perfection, the preseason All-American had already delivered multiple nearly perfect performances throughout his first few years in Durham. 

Jarvis first danced with perfection in Morgantown, W. Va., a year ago, orchestrating an eight-inning shutout to send Duke to the regional championship game. His next tango with it came a week later in the super regional against Vanderbilt, just down the road from his former high school. In a game that will forever be remembered as the Kumar Rocker no-hitter, Jarvis held the eventual national champions to one run in seven innings of high-stakes baseball.

“He’s putting together one of the best careers maybe in the history of Duke baseball," head coach Chris Pollard said. "What makes him special is a combination. He’s a tremendous competitor, one of the best I’ve ever coached. He has it in his genes."

The junior credits a great deal of his will to win to his dad, Kevin. The elder Jarvis had a 13-year major league career of his own, experience he uses to teach his son the mental side of the game.

Bryce's competitive nature is reminiscent of the late, great Kobe Bryant. Off the field, the preseason Golden Spikes Award watch list selectee describes himself as a laid back, friendly guy. The script flips once he toes the rubber. 

“Once I get between those lines and once I’m in that game setting, it’s all gas no brakes," Jarvis said. "If you’re standing in that box, you’re my enemy in that moment. So I’m going to do what I can to beat you. 

The 27 Cornell batters on Feb. 21 can surely attest to Jarvis not being an amicable guy when he is on the bump.

A true student-athlete

Perfection—it’s a funny thing. 

Most of us want it. Some of us actively pursue it. In reality, only a few of us are ever able to attain it. It is something that Jarvis incessantly chases on the field and in the classroom, regardless of how elusive it is. 

In addition to baseball, Jarvis is a Mechanical Engineering student in Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. The pairing of an engineering major and baseball are about as common as Halley’s comet—for most, it is simply too difficult to juggle. But for Jarvis, the first part of student-athlete is just as important as the second.

“I grew up in a family that expected just as much excellence in the classroom as they did on the field…. I always like to be doing something and I would rather be too busy doing things and trying to find where the tipping point is for myself than to always be comfortable,” Jarvis said. “Pushing myself to the limits in the classroom helps me on the field.”

His theory has been proven true thus far, as Jarvis has numbers that will grab the attention of any scout while still excelling in the classroom. In his four games pitched this year, he is holding opponents to a minuscule .120 batting average along with a 0.67 ERA.  

Dominance on the biggest stage

Jarvis has grown quite familiar with dominance, but what really catches your eye is that he often does so when the lights shine brightest. During his senior year of high school, the right-hander went head-to-head with future Vanderbilt ace Mason Hickman, now the No. 65 prospect for the 2020 MLB Draft according to Baseball America, and bested him to send his high school to the championship game.  

In his most recent outing, Jarvis held then-No. 11 Florida State Seminoles to no runs in seven innings, while whiffing 12 batters on his way to leading Duke to its first ACC victory of the season.

This is all in addition to Jarvis' series of clutch performances in last year's NCAA tournament.

“You kind of want to walk the line between being cocky and having confidence. It's kind of like an internal confidence….,” Jarvis said. “I think trusting the preparation, all the hard work that's gone in in the offseason between starts, when people don't see you on TV pitching, or don’t see you in the games...is a big a part of why I’ve been able to be successful in those big spots.”

Offseason grind

If I stopped telling the Bryce Jarvis story here, you would be missing the foundation of what has propelled him into being the ideal student-athlete, elite competitor and clutch player that he is. 

There are thousands of high school athletes that choose to focus on baseball in the hopes of playing at the next level but oftentimes lack the discipline and drive to fully utilize the entire calendar year. Finding a ballplayer as young as Jarvis that understands the importance of grinding hard in December to see the results in April can be few and far between. According to his high school pitching coach, Chandler Ganick, Jarvis was one of the few who had the long distance vision of seeing how working in the present would pay dividends in the future. 

Jarvis is not one to take his preparation lightly. He has a strict routine that he follows throughout the week and always tries to eclipse his former ceiling. This past summer, the Brentwood Academy product opted to go to the Driveline Baseball player development program in Washington to polish up an already dangerous arsenal. There was a large emphasis placed on pitch shaping, with Jarvis really wanting to create consistency between all of his pitches. 

Not to mention, Jarvis decided to add a fourth pitch, a curveball, to his repertoire, giving opposing hitters one more thing to mull over in the box. What really sticks out about his choice to go back into the lab and dissect his pitches is the fact that he had such a successful sophomore season. In 75.2 innings pitched, he struck out 94 and did so with a 3.81 ERA, yet he insisted those numbers were not good enough and put his nose back to the grindstone. 

If his offseason wasn't already full enough, Jarvis went through an intense strength training regimen and added velocity to an already crisp fastball. 

As for the Jarvis' future, no one has a crystal ball and can tell us how he pans out, but his former high school head coach Buddy Alexander is not worried at all. 

“His is a labor of love," Alexander said. "He will make it in the big leagues—there's no doubt in my mind. He's got electric stuff and he's got a good head on his shoulders. Obviously, he's very intelligent. He's a well rounded person. He's not just a baseball junkie. He will be successful in life with whatever he does."

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