In baseball, pitching helps win games.
It helped the Warhawks win 37 games last season on their way to the College World Series.
Two of the biggest reasons the ’Hawks had so much success last year were because of pitchers Jeff Donovan and Riley Tincher. The two combined for 20 of the teams’ wins, with Donovan posting a record of 10-0 while Tincher went 10-4.
“What made them so special is that as a coach, I could count on them having a consistent start,” head coach John Vodenlich said. “I knew if they had the ball in their hand, our chances of winning were very good.”
Entering this season, the ’Hawks had many questions regarding their pitching staff after losing three seniors who won 26 games a season ago.
Vodenlich said he knew before the year it would take a while to find the pitching to replace both Donovan and Tincher, but said that with this year’s depth, it will be just a matter of time.
“We have a lot of depth and of talent and I’m searching for those individuals that can be difference makers,” Vodenlich said. “We will find them out of this group, it’s just a matter of trial and error.”
One person that has stood out thus far has been senior Division-I transfer Kyle Stewart. Stewart, who played for Western Carolina the past three seasons, has started five games this season and hasn’t lost a game, posting a record of 5-0 with an ERA of 1.78. Besides Stewart, the rest of the team is 6-6 with a 4.81 ERA.
Stewart said as a senior, he understands his role as the team’s ace.
“I’ve been relaxed and have been just going out there and pitching,” Stewart said. “You have to be confident and just go out there and throw. I’ve got a good defense behind me and I have an offense that can score.”
While the 2011 team posted a 3.40 team ERA, Vodenlich knows it will take some time for the ’Hawks to reach a mark like that. Right now, the ’Hawks have a team ERA of 4.24.
“[Stewart] is absolutely one of the guys at the top of the list and there are several others that are doing very well,” Vodenlich said. “All we are doing is trying to get some consistency in them.”
Other starters Vodenlich has tried out so far this season, that have at least two starts, include seniors Aaron Leitner and Jack Larsen.
Leitner has started three games, going 1-0 with a 4.96 ERA and Larsen has started two games for the ’Hawks, posting a 1-2 record with a 3.86 ERA.
Sophomore Matthew Roberts also has a record of 1-1 after starting three games.
“We have good depth,” Stewart said. “Whatever our starting rotation amounts to be, I think will be fine and the bullpen will be good.”
Relief pitching shouldn’t be a problem for the ’Hawks, as they return senior Eric Schmitz, who has been solid so far this season. Schmitz is 2-1 with a 2.51 ERA in six appearances.
With plenty of games to remaining this season, the ’Hawks have fared well without a dominant pitching staff. They hold an 11-6 record.
They will face UW-Platteville at 1 p.m. today in Platteville.