“Pitching and defense win championships,” is an old baseball adage that gets tossed around by lazy baseball commentators every single year (I am looking at you Tim McCarver).
Why lazy? Well, to win a baseball game, a team has to score at least one run, and if a team only had pitching and defense and no hitters, it probably couldn’t score any runs and, therefore, it couldn’t win. Actually, without hitters, pitching and defense would be useless because there would be nobody to pitch or play defense against. See the flaws in the adage?
Nevertheless, pitching is extremely important in conjunction with a baseball team’s success, and if you don’t give up many runs, it is much easier to win (this is heavy-hitting analysis, people).
The Linfield baseball pitching staff lost two excellent veterans to graduation last year, Ryan Larson and Robert Vaughn. Replacing them was not going to be an easy task.
But 15 games through this season, I encourage you to find the flaws in this statistic: the Linfield baseball pitching staff hasn’t given up a homerun.
In those 15 games, just two starts have been made by a senior. Nine have been made by sophomores.
“It’s a younger group of pitchers… This staff also doesn’t throw as hard on average as the previous years, but I think that this staff has more control,” said Zach Manley, the one senior who has made starts on the team.
When it comes to control, Manley definitely hits the nail on the head with this staff. Through 133 innings, the staff has walked just 38 batters for a BB/9 rate of 2.57. This even includes the loss against Montana State-Billings where the team issued a whopping 12 walks. Eliminate those 12 and the BB/9 rate drops to a miniscule 1.76. If you like walks, find a nice park or trail. You won’t find many at Roy Helser Field.
“If you don’t walk people you can go deeper into games, and the other team has to string hits together. Our pitchers have good enough stuff where that is tough to do for opposing teams,” sophomore Chris Haddeland said.
Haddeland has proven this himself, throwing two straight complete games and has walked just five batters in 31 innings this season.
Another sophomore who has announced his presence in a profound way is Aaron Thomassen. Through four games his ERA sits at 0.66 and in his last start Thomassen was two outs from throwing a no-hitter. Two! Why give up hits, right?
O.K., so maybe we cannot expect no-hitters and complete games during every game for the pitching staff, and certainly someone will allow a homerun at some point. But this staff and the stellar work from the bullpen (juniors Justin Huckins and Garett Speyer and sophomore Joseph Stevick have sparkled in four appearances each with ERA’s of 1.04, 1.59 and 2.08 respectively) puts the staff ERA at 1.83. Who has the next best team ERA in the NWC? Pacific Lutheran at 3.24.
“All the guys worked really hard during the offseason and have continued to do so into the spring. We all know that we have the potential to be a special group,” said junior Zach Brandon, whose ERA sits at a tidy 2.28 on the season.
The Wildcat lineup continues to rake and help lead this team to victory, but the start of this season is proving that the graduation losses may not be as impactful as expected for the pitching staff.
“I definitely believe we are capable of capturing the conference crown and making a deep run in the playoffs,” Brandon said.
Notice the word “run” in that quote. There is no mention of walk, and the pitching staff is making this clear every game, allowing for the future run to look more possible each and every day. Maybe the adage will have some merit this year?
Tyler Bradley can be reached at