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MHS pitcher Zach Todd inks with ranked D-I program
Bulletin sports fall 2021
Zach Todd is joined by parents Anthony and Tara at the Manteca High cafeteria Wednesday when he signed to play baseball with Dallas Baptist University. - photo by CHRIS LEONARD/Leonard

Zach Todd was resigned to playing ball at the NCAA Division II level.

That changed over the summer when a jump in mph to his fastball caught the attention of D-I coaches. The 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher locked in his commitment to one of the top programs in the nation on Wednesday, signing his national letter of intent to play for Dallas Baptist University.

At the start of last summer, he was comfortably throwing his fastball in the 85-88 mph range. Todd decided to push the limits of his ability and ramped up to 89-92 mph without losing control. He has even topped out at 94. Dallas Baptist coaches took notice when they came across one of his highlight videos on social media.

On Aug. 2, Todd announced his commitment. He said he was in contact with as many as 20 Division-I programs and three Division II during the summer.

“I didn’t really see myself going to a big school,” he said. “D-II is where I wanted to go, but once I made the jump in mph and getting more exposure from college it became more of a reality that I could go to a big D-I school. When it really came down to picking a school, I chose to go with competition, faith and development — those were things I valued. I committed to a great program to be a great player and a great human.”

Todd shared his big moment Wednesday with friends, family and teammates at the MHS cafeteria. Among those in attendance were more than 20 of his former and current coaches.

“It was so cool to just walk down memory lane and talk with those coaches who were part of my past successes and struggles,” Todd said. “They mentored me into becoming the baseball player I am now. They’re all super important to me. They’re almost father figures in the game for me, so it was really cool for them to be there.”

Dallas Baptist competes in the Missouri Valley Conference and is coming off an historic season in which it was a win away from making the College World Series. The Patriots was ranked 14th in the country and finished 41-18 — the seventh straight season (not counting the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign) that they’ve won 40 or more games. They’re headed by 15th-year coach Dan Heefner, and he has recently added former Oakland A’s shortstop Cliff Pennington to his staff.

“Definitely surreal,” Todd said of signing with a top D-I program. “I know that the competition is going to be top tier over there. There is a sense of pride knowing that I am respected enough to be able to even be looked at by a high-level program. It’s a little confidence booster, and to receive an offer from them is huge.”

Todd is looking into majoring in criminal justice or business but is also not ruling out the possibility of playing professionally.

“Of course the dream is the bigs,” Todd said, “but for right now I’m just really focusing on getting that degree. If those phones start ringing for major league clubs, then without a doubt I’ll take it.”

Todd helped Manteca compile a 12-9 record during the COVID-shortened 2020 season. He went 5-1 in 10 appearances, registering a 1.62 earned run average, 72 strikeouts and 26 walks in 56 innings. He is working on perfecting a changeup to go with his explosive fastball-slider combo.

“This year, I just want to take it all in and enjoy the game with my brothers whom I grew up playing with,” he said. “Of course we’ll be competitive and fight in every game, but more importantly I want us to enjoy it and have fun as a team.”