In addition to improving his defense, after his inaugural season at third base as a junior (he was a designated hitter his freshman season at Division II Cal State Los Angeles and played second base while hitting .450 with seven homers and 42 extra-base hits as the Western State Conference Player of the Year as a sophomore at College of the Canyons), the coaches elected to try him as a pitcher beginning in December.
With a live arm, brazen competitiveness, and a newly developed changeup, Hernandez earned the confidence of Gillespie and first-year pitching coach Jason Dietrich. He was named the team's closer in January and has excelled in that role.
"It's an incredible feeling," Hernandez said of recording the game's final out. "Growing up, I was always a starting pitcher, so I never knew what it was like to close. But ending the game and knowing you played a big role in ending the game feels great."