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ROHNERT PARK

Sonoma State University pitcher Harmen Sidhu was ridiculously sensational this past season.

How sensational? This sensational: A coach would need to know only eight words of English to say to Sidhu during the 13 games he worked.

"Slow down your arm motion on your curveball."

That's it. Just eight words, although SSU coach John Goelz would have to say them in two different games, which still did not increase the risk of laryngitis. For as effective and trouble-free as Sidhu pitched, Goelz might as well have said, "Fried eggs and ham I am!" to Sidhu during a game and the results probably would have been the same.

Sidhu has been awarded the 2013 Tino Martinez Award given annually to the most outstanding player in NCAA Division II baseball as determined by the site CollegeBaseballLineup.com.

The award was named after Martinez, acknowledged as the best Division II player in NCAA history when he played for the University of Tampa. Martinez was a 1998 USA Olympian who played 16 seasons — for the Yankees, Mariners, Cardinals and Devil Rays — hitting 339 home runs, driving in 1,271 runs, making two All-Star teams and playing in four World Series.

"I didn't even answer the phone when it rang," Sidhu said of the call.

It was 8:30 in the morning and Sidhu is a college kid and college kids don't rush into mornings any more than they rush to class at 8 a.m. Might as well, Sidhu thought later, listen to the message.

"Hi, Harmen. This is Tino Martinez. Give me a call."

Sidhu, 22, bolted upright in bed as if he just sat on an electric cattle prod.

"It (the call) was my coffee," Sidhu said.

Sidhu was one of 10 finalists for the award and is the first pitcher in the award's four-year history to receive it. His resume was stacked in his favor.

He was 10-1 with a 0.98 ERA. He allowed just 47 hits in 82? innings. He is the first starting pitcher in SSU history and the first DII starting pitcher in California history to post an ERA under 1.00. Typically, pitchers who post that low an ERA throw softballs, not baseballs.

"In the last 10 years," Goelz said, "I've had 40 players sign pro contracts. Twenty-nine of them have been pitchers. No one had a year like Harmen has had. If I needed one pitcher to win a national championship, it would have to be Harmen. Who else could I pick?"

Goelz took a glance at his office and pointed at SSU team pictures.

"If Harmen had been on that team," Goelz said, "we would have won the national championship. ... if he had been on that team over there, we would have won the national championship ... and on that team over there ... and there."

But Sidhu was on this 2013 team and if there was one statistic that might drive the applause needle even higher than that 0.98 ERA it was this one: Of the 323 batters he faced, Sidhu gave up a grand total of five extra-base hits: four doubles, one triple, no home runs.

"I can remember each extra-base hit and what I threw," said Sidhu, who's 6-foot, 175 pounds.

The UC San Diego guy hit a fastball down the middle of the plate and above the belt. The Cal Poly Pomona dude hit a 3-2 hanging slider. The Cal Baptist spoil-sport hit a slider down and away. The Cal State Los Angeles fella really was living the high life when he got not one but two extra-base hits off Sidhu, off a change-up down and away and a slider down the middle. That slider went for a triple.

The few, the proud, the guys standing on second base.

In other words, when you stepped up to the plate this year against Harmen Sidhu, you had a 1.54 percent chance of getting an extra-base hit off him. That's about the same chance of seeing a banana slug juggle a beach ball while smoking a cigarette.

"It's surreal to me," said Goelz of the Sidhu numbers. It's also a bit surreal that among the nine other guys he beat out for the award, three of them had names that seemed like typos: Kyle Petty, Matt Dillon and Harvey Martin. You had to do a double-take and remember this Petty wasn't a NASCAR driver, this Dillon wasn't an actor and this Martin wasn't a four-time All-Pro in the NFL.

"Harmen never let me down," Goelz said. Context: Every time Sidhu refused to leave the game when Goelz asked, he never fell apart. The year before the two would butt heads over that, but in 2013 Goelz knew he was seeing magic out there and didn't want to muck it up. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And Sidhu had earned Goelz's trust.

In his two years at SSU, the Martinez native posted a 17-2 record, a 1.56 ERA and allowed just one home run in 150 innings.

Sure, John Goelz is going to miss his perfectionist, probably because he's never going to be able to say this again to any of his pitchers: "You're really good. So I don't care if you throw the ball away on a bunt."

Why should Goelz worry? After all, it's not like the guy is going to score or anything.

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You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.