Blake Hauser, in his first year as VCU’s closer, is 4-1 with 10 saves and a 2.22 ERA.

A curious text message appeared on the phone of VCU Interim Baseball Coach Shawn Stiffler’s recently. It was from a recruit who had one simple burning question: “Can you turn me into Blake Hauser?”

After two underwhelming seasons in VCU uniform, Hauser is thriving this year after converting from starter to closer for the Rams, catching the attention of fans, scouts and recruits alike.

In 26 appearances, the Chesterfield, Va. native has a 4-1 record, 10 saves and a 2.22 ERA. In 28.1 innings, the hard-throwing righty has struck out 54 – an average of more than 17 per nine innings – and allowed just nine hits. If not for 24 walks, his ERA might be microscopic.

But Hauser didn’t get to this point in his career easily. Drafted in the 25th round in 2009 by the Cleveland Indians out of Manchester High School, Hauser instead chose to play for VCU Coach Paul Keyes and the Rams. Armed with an exploding, 95 mile-and-hour fastball, his arrival was met with much fanfare.

It didn’t work out like it was supposed to.

Hauser struggled with his command and posted a 4-4 record with a gaudy 7.07 ERA in 11 games, including 10 starts, as a freshman. As a sophomore he posted a 3-4 record with a 4.65 ERA in 12 appearances, nine of them starts. It was progress, but not the type of performance he or others had envisioned. Frustration set in.

“Not really towards anybody or anything, but at myself,” Hauser said. “I didn’t really contribute as much as I should have. Not even close. And I felt like I could’ve helped the team out and I really didn’t do much, and it was really frustrating.”