Kansas native Jace Kaminska’s journey to a freshman standout

Freshman+Jace+Kaminska+pitches+during+WSU%27s+game+against+East+Carolina+on+April+30+inside+Eck+Stadium.

Sean Marty

Freshman Jace Kaminska pitches during WSU’s game against East Carolina on April 30 inside Eck Stadium.

Jace Kaminska might be from a small town in southeast Kansas but he hasn’t been shy of the spotlight this season for Wichita State. 

Kaminska grew up in Caney, Kansas where the population is under 2,000 people. He attended Caney Valley High School where he took home the Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year in 2019 and 2020. For his career, Kaminska compiled a 0.59 ERA and allowed only 20 hits in 96 innings pitched.

Kaminska said that being from a small town has helped him in many different facets. 

“Coming from a small town, I think it helped me a lot because you really have to remember where you’re from,” Kaminska said. “On the playing side because I played on a way lower competition level so I really had to work on stuff when I didn’t always have to. Like where I could take it easy, I still worked on getting better.”

During Kaminska’s sophomore year of high school, he got pressured into committing early. Ultimately Kaminska’s decision came down to Wichita State and Kansas State and he decided to become a Shocker. 

When Kaminska finally arrived on campus this fall, his role on the team was unsure. After being a starter all throughout high school, he adjusted to a bullpen role for WSU. In two appearances out of the bullpen, Kaminska allowed two earned runs in 4.1 innings pitched. 

Freshman Jace Kaminska walks back towards the mound during WSU’s game against East Carolina on April 30 inside Eck Stadium. (Sean Marty)

Kaminska said he was hard on himself early on which translated to his lack of success coming out of the bullpen.

“I kind of did it to myself and I was upset with myself that I was in the bullpen because I had always been a starter,” Kaminska said. “I knew eventually something would happen, someone would get hurt and I knew I needed to not mess it up when I got it and take it and run with it.”

Kaminska finally got his opportunity as a starting pitcher during WSU’s game against Kansas State on March 23. Kaminska collected his first collegiate victory as he pitched five scoreless innings, while only allowing three hits.

Since then Kaminska hasn’t looked back. Kaminska currently holds the lowest ERA on the Shockers at 1.18. Kaminska has also received a win in five of his six starts and the Shockers are undefeated when he takes the mound as a starter this season. 

“I think that’s been the biggest thing because being a freshman you’re not expected to pitch much even though I kind of expected to because I thought I was different,” Kaminska said. “So facing a challenge and then getting your chance it makes you work harder. Now that I got it, I don’t want to let it go and I’ll try to do anything to keep it.”

Kaminska also earned the start at the inaugural game at Riverfront Stadium. Kaminska became the first Shocker freshman to throw a nine-inning complete game since Jordan Cooper did so in 2009. Kaminska also became the first WSU pitcher since Clayton McGinness in 2019 to throw a complete game.

Kaminska has slowly embraced the role as a fan favorite and has seen his following start to increase as he continues to have success. 

“That’s all been a really good feeling. With social media, I’ve got a lot of followers, I don’t know if it’s more than anyone else but it seems like a lot. Especially pitching at Riverfront (Stadium), there was 7,000 people and I know there were at least 100 people from my town there.”

Kaminska turned in his most important start of his young career this past Friday against No. 8 East Carolina, leading the Shockers to a 12-2 victory. Kaminska pitched a complete game and allowed only two earned runs in seven innings pitched. 

Head Coach Eric Wedge said he has been impressed with Kaminska’s presence on the mound as a freshman. 

“We talk about pitchability all the time and he exudes it,” Wedge said. “He goes out there with his fastball, he can throw in and out, up and down when he wants to. He continues to develop a breaking ball that’s been pretty good for him. He’s able to throw any pitch at any time and he has presence on the mound for a freshman.”

Junior outfielder Hunter Gibson said that he has been impressed with how Kaminska has carried himself. 

“Off the field he’s a goofy fun guy to be around but on the field he’s all serious, he’s ready to get after it and he composes himself on the mound as a freshman better than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Gibson said. “He’s got two or three pitches that he can throw for a strike anytime and it’s really impressive and fun to watch in the dugout. It also helps us as hitters to go up there and you want to compete for that guy, you want to win and give good at-bats for him.”

Kaminska said that his journey has been special, especially since few people get to play Division-I sports from his town. 

“I would say it’s unique because I don’t have any friends that have come and played Division-I sports,” Kaminska said. “I think it’s special and then with baseball you’re bound to fail, it’s probably the most failure driven game of all sports. I know what’s going to happen at some point, where I’m not going to win. It’s just how you recover from that.”