R.J. Robles wasn’t quite sure why the bullpen was so excited, but it turns out they were celebrating the fact their teammate had just set the Missouri Western State University school record for strikeouts in a single game.
“It was cool to hear,” Robles said. “I wasn’t really paying attention when I was pitching. I got my 15th, and the bullpen went crazy — they were screaming.”
A 2016 graduate of Hermiston High School, Robles held the Missouri Western record of 14 strikeouts (Feb. 8, 2019), along with Anthony Castasneda (twice in 2019) and A.J. Huttenlocker (2009).
By the time Robles got through six innings against Oklahoma Baptist on Jan. 31, the left-hander had rung up 17 strikeouts as the Griffons held on for a 5-3 road win.
The 6-foot, 195-pound Robles scattered two hits, walked five and gave up one run on his way to history.
“It was really nice to be able to share that with the guys and coaches,” Robles said. “We got back to the hotel and had some good food. We have to earn it.”
Robles, who is majoring in computer technology with a minor in business, is a senior for the Griffons.
Last year, Robles appeared in 12 games, with seven starts. He had an 0-2 record with a 6.09 ERA. He gave up 32 hits, along with 37 walks and 44 strikeouts.
“The level here is pretty good,” said Robles, who played two years at Treasure Valley Community College right out of high school. “When I first got to Missouri, it was hard to get used to the humidity and the bugs. I do like the west side (of the United States) more.”
Robles, 22, grew up playing youth football, basketball and even wrestled before he got to high school. Once he put on the Hermiston purple and gold, it was baseball only.
His senior year at Hermiston, he was named the Columbia River Conference Pitcher of the Year. He had a 1.40 ERA with 40 strikeouts and 21 walks over 25 innings. He also earned first-team CRC honors as an outfielder.
On April 8, 2016, he threw a perfect game on the road against Parkrose — a 12-0 win that saw Robles strike out 13.
“I’ve told them I could hit and play in the outfield, but the college coaches just want me to focus on pitching,” Robles said.
After his stint at TVCC, where he had a 3.06 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 64⅔ innings his sophomore year, Missouri Western found Robles on FieldLevel, an app that helps connect players and coaches.
Through the app, Robles had interest from Montana State Billings, Northwest Nazarene University, Bellevue University and Missouri Western.
The summer between TVCC and Missouri Western, Robles played for the Bend Elks of the West Coast League, a summer college wood bat league that competes against teams like the Walla Walla Sweets and Portland Pickles.
“I really liked that league,” Robles said.
Last summer, baseball took Robles across the country to New York, where he played for the Mohawk Valley Diamond Dawgs in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.
He finished the summer with a 3-2 record with four saves and a 2.10 ERA. He struck out 22 in 21⅓ innings of work.
“It was in upstate New York (Little Falls),” he said. “It was an experience. At first, it was really tough. We were in a town the size of Irrigon, and I barely had cell service. I lived with a billet family, and I’m glad I did. It was an awesome experience.”