The 2019 college baseball season was a bit of a roller coaster for powerhouse program Cal State Fullerton, but certainly not because of Mitch Berryhill.
The Smithfield native made the most of his final season with the Titans as he led the always tough Big West Conference in batting average en route to garnering third-team All-America honors by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. It’s the 22nd straight season CSF has had at least one All-American.
“It meant everything,” Berryhill said of his breakout senior campaign. “It was exactly the way I wanted to go out. There was nothing I could change about it; I didn’t want to change anything about it. Everybody here in (Cache Valley) cheered me on. I had so much support here and it just made me feel really loved. It was just a good way to go out.”
Berryhill started all 53 games for the Titans in 2019 and consistently made life difficult for opposing pitchers. The lightning fast left-hander finished fifth among all Division I players with a .415 batting average, which ranked fifth for a single season in CSF history. Additionally, Berryhill ranked first in the Big West with an on-base percentage of .493.
In Cal State Fullerton’s first Big West series of the season, Berryhill went 10 for 12 at the plate with four walks in three games against Cal Poly. Berryhill, who was also plunked once in that series, was named the conference’s Field Player of the Week for his efforts.
Indeed, it was shaping up to be a special season for the 24-year-old.
“When my assistant coach kept saying you could be the first Fullerton guy to receive the batting title, and that’s when it kind of started setting in where I was like, ‘OK, wow, that’s pretty important, that’s a big deal,’” Berryhill said. “I didn’t get the batting title because that’s pretty hard to do to be the No. 1 hitter in the country, but I was there (at the top) for about a month or two.”
The son of Kristi and John Berryhill racked up 81 base knocks in 195 at-bats for the Titans as a senior. In addition to leading CSF in batting average and on-base percentage, No. 6 paced the club in slugging percentage (.487), total bases (95) and stolen bases (17). The center fielder was only caught stealing twice in 19 attempts.
Berryhill also finished second on the team in doubles (eight), triples (three) and runs (39) and tied for the No. 3 spot in RBIs (27). The senior recorded multiple hits in 25 games and reached base in an ultra-impressive 47 straight contests this spring.
The former Sky View and Salt Lake Community College star also fared well as a junior at Cal State Fullerton as he batted .295 and posted an on-base percentage of .384 in 59 games. Berryhill finished third nationally with 22 sacrifice bunts en route to securing honorable mention all-conference accolades.
Berryhill was given more latitude at the plate by the CSF coaches his final season — a decision they surely didn’t regret.
“My coaches really worked with me this year, let me swing away a little bit,” said Berryhill, who was the only player on the team to earn first-team all-league honors. “... They didn’t really trust me completely the year before, but this year they gave me that trust, and I was excited to use it.”
Despite Berryhill’s heroics, the Titans failed to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament, which is a rarity for a program that has advanced to the College World Series 18 times and has captured four national championships. However, CSF did win eight of its final 10 games to finish with a record of 27-26. The Titans have never posted a losing record.
In his final game, a 9-2 triumph over Cal State Northridge, Berryhill went 3 for 5 with a pair of runs.
“We did have a really good team this year, we just didn’t win in the right spot,” said Berryhill, who is one semester away from obtaining his bachelor’s degree in communications, with a emphasis in public relations. “But toward the end of the season, that’s when the Titans get hot and so people started getting really worried about us. The cards weren’t right for us to go to the postseason this year. It kind of stunk, but I’m excited to see what they have next year and I’m going to be watching them.”
And while it wasn’t the senior season Berryhill envisioned team wise, he and the Titans were able to enjoy a lot of success the year before. As a junior, CSF won the Big West title, upset No. 2 Stanford to march on to the Super Regionals and was one win away from becoming one of eight teams to advance to the College World Series.
CSF lost a drama-laden 6-5 heartbreaker to Washington in 10 innings in the third and decisive game of their Super Regional series.
“That was the most fun I’ve ever had on a baseball team,” said Berryhill, who played two seasons at SLCC before transferring to CSF. “That experience brought us even closer together as a team. ... It was something I’ll never have again, which is crazy, and I’ll have videos and pictures of it all over the place. It was like a dream, pretty much. It really was, but I will always remember the guys that I played with through that experience.”
Another thing Berryhill is never going to forget is having his name on the wall of All-Americans at Cal State Fullerton.
“My name’s going to actually be on the wall of All-Americans at Fullerton forever, which is pretty amazing because of all of the greats that are on there,” said Berryhill, who went on to name several former CSF All-Americans who played professionally at the highest level. “... It’s going to be cool seeing my name over there every time I go to the alumni game.”
Indeed, the past two seasons have been memorable for Berryhill, but his future in baseball is uncertain. That’s because the former first-team all-state honoree at Sky View wasn’t selected in the 2019 Major League Baseball draft.
“From everybody that I heard from, this wasn’t going to be it for me,” Berryhill said. “I really thought that I was going to keep playing. My head coach (at CSF) told me that I was going to get drafted. He talked to a bunch of different scouts saying (I was) going to be taken, so be ready for it. But I had it in my head, ‘don’t get your hopes too high because last year it happened too.’ And the draft is just very unpredictable. It is a very unpredictable thing and I don’t understand it.”
At 24 years old, Berryhill — who served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — is at least two years older than most MLB prospects. He believes this was a big reason why he wasn’t drafted. Berryhill is still holding out hope he will get an opportunity with a minor league team, but time is running out.
“I think the last day you can sign is July 14, so I’m waiting until that day,” Berryhill said. “... I definitely played the right competition. I faced some unbelievable pitching and I proved myself over and over, so we’ve just got to wait and see if (a team) approves of it, if they want to give me a shot or not because of my age.”
If Berryhill doesn’t get signed, he will finish out the summer playing in the Northern Utah League for the Providence Wolverines — something he thoroughly enjoys. Unless an opportunity to continue playing baseball presents itself, Berryhill will move to Boise, Idaho, in August and work in commercial sales for Don Aslett’s Cleaning Center, which is something “that I’m excited about.”
Berryhill is currently teaching lessons to youth in Cache Valley, which is also something he really enjoys.
“I had a fantastic season at Fullerton,” Berryhill said. “I’m happy I left my legacy and I’m excited to use the knowledge I got from there to help kids get better here.”