As the saying goes, defense wins championships. For baseball, a big part of that defense is pitching.
One of the reasons the No. 10 ranked (D3Baseball.com) Warhawks have maintained a 21-5 record is because of seniors Jeff Donovan and Riley Tincher.
A season ago, Tincher earned All-American status and was named the central region’s pitcher of the year after posting a 13-1 record and a 3.87 earned run average. He has had his up and downs this year, but still has put up solid numbers.
So far in eight games, Tincher has a 5-2 record and has an earned run average of 3.46.
“It’s definitely been a rollercoaster season,” Tincher said. “Right now I’m on a down, but like pitching coach [Ryan Callahan] told me, it’s fixable. Every single start I have I want to learn from, so when come playoff time I will be at my best.”
Without pitchers Jason Hooper and Aaron Leitner (injury) this season, who combined for 17 wins and a 3.89 earned run average a season ago, the ’Hawks entered the year looking for that second starter.
That man is Donovan.
“[Last season] I had the ability to pitch, I just don’t think [the coaching staff] had to rely on me because we had a ton of arms,” Donovan said. “We are short on arms this year and I just heavied my load a little bit and they put more faith in me to get the job done.”
Pitching in only 10 games last season, Donovan has moved into a full-time man. So far this season, Donovan leads the team with a 7-0 record, a 3.50 earned run average, 45 strikeouts and has held opponents to a .223 batting average.
“I think I’m doing what the coaches preach, I’m just throwing strikes,” Donovan said. “I am not a strikeout pitcher because I don’t throw that hard so I just have to keep the ball down and throw strikes.”
The offseason helped Donovan because he didn’t have football to sidetrack him, so he could solely focus on baseball.
“Without a doubt, the reason I am a better pitcher this year is because I had a whole year to focus on baseball alone, instead of coming over from football,” Donovan said. “Throwing a football and throwing a baseball are two different things.”
Tincher also said that has helped Donovan because he got to work on his different pitches more.
“He’s a completely different pitcher from last year,” Tincher said. “I feel like he has the ability to make pitches this year. He now has command of his curve ball and his command of his fastball on both sides of the plate.”
Unlike last year when the team had four reliable starters, Donovan and Tincher have led the pack thus far. This season, they have combined for 45 percent of innings pitched on the team and recorded more than half the wins.
With the way these two seniors have been pitching, if the team finds that third or fourth arm, they will be hard to stop.
“We definitely need three or four [pitchers] because when come regionals, we play almost eight games,” Tincher said.
“We need some guys to step up; sophomore Justin Lambert has been doing a great job. Sophomore Tom Kerndt and freshman Matt Roberts have also been stepping up and hopefully they will fulfill that role towards the end of the season.”