The importance of pitching in baseball is emphasized at all levels, as one of the oldest clichés is that pitching wins championships. This past weekend the Brock Badgers baseball team saw championship quality pitching, which led them to a 4-0 record over the course of two days.
Through the first six games of the 2016 season the Badgers pitching staff had a 5.48 earned run average. This past weekend in four games, two each against the York Lions and Guelph Gryphons, the Badgers pitchers put on a clinic with a 2.89 ERA — lowering their season ERA to 4.50, which is the fourth lowest in the OUA.
Brock would start Derek Zwolinski and Rhys Tapper in the Saturday games versus the Lions. Tapper’s start would come due to an apparent injury that sidelined Jeff Baggaley.
Zwolinski had one previous start this season, where he went five innings giving up two runs. Against the Lions, Zwolinski got stronger as the game went on as he would give the Badgers seven solid innings.
“As the game went on he got stronger and stronger,” said manager Marc LePage after Zwolinski’s start. “He spotted his fastball better and commanded the strike zone. He got deep into the game and really saved our bullpen.”
The second year pitcher would walk the leadoff hitter Michael Asta to begin the game and followed that up by giving up a single to the Lions third baseman Kyle Frey. Asta would advance to third on the single, and eventually scored on a throw down to second, as Frey picked up the Lions only stolen base of the game.
Zwolinski would then walk the leadoff hitter of the second inning and give up another single, but that would be all the Lions would get in the second. The Lions didn’t get another hit off of Zwolinski until the fifth inning.
“I was struggling for a bit, but I got out there and just pitched the ball,” said Zwolinski. “I was just trying to get the team a win and be a team player.”
Zwolinski would go seven innings, giving up two runs on three hits, striking out five and walking three. The game would end on the mercy rule, as the Badgers downed the Lions 12-2.
Offensively the Badgers really poured it on in the final three innings, scoring nine of their 12 runs. All but two Badgers picked up RBI’s (runs batted in). Tyler Nakamura led off for the Badgers as he would go 1-2, with three walks and right behind him was Matthew Legg going 2-5.
In game two versus York, the Badgers starter Rhys Tapper was expected to pitch two or three innings in replace of Baggaley, however, Tapper was able to go 5.2 innings giving up only one run on four hits. Matthew Balkwill would pitch the final 1.1 innings, giving up a run on two hits and walking three.
“[Tapper] came out and did a great job,” said LePage. “We originally thought two or three innings, but he went far into the game.”
The Badgers were led on offense by shortstop Noah Koffman, who went 4-4 in game two versus the Lions and 5-8 for the day. In game two, Koffman scored twice while having one RBI.
“Just seeing the ball, trying to hit and make something happen,” said Koffman about his approach at the plate. “We were putting pressure on the pitcher [and] it’s easier to hit when you are at the advantage.”
“He worked super hard, took extra reps all week, came to the park early and stayed late,” said LePage about Koffman. “He put in a ton of work and it transferred to the field. He was selective with the pitches he swung at.”
The Badgers would edge the Lions in game two with a final score of 8-2.
On Sunday, the Badgers would pick up another two wins as they defeated the Guelph Gryphons 12-2 and 7-4.
The most impressive pitching performance for Brock came from Chase Porter. Porter came into the weekend having given up four or more runs in his first two starts and had yet to pitch passed the fifth inning.
Against the Gryphons, Porter went six innings giving up two runs on four hits. The second year pitcher still had control problems as he walked three, but he also struck out five. Porter has walked 12 hitters compared to 10 strikes out this season.
Ryan Bench would come into the game in the seventh inning to help Porter finish the game. Bench struck out one and walked one.
The 12-2 win saw Nakamura go 3-3 with two walks, which led to him scoring four times. Justin Gideon, the OUA Hitter of the Year in 2014 and 2015 would hit his first home run of the season, as he went 1-3 with three RBI’s.
In the 7-4 win, Adrian Yuen would get the start over what was supposed to be Alex Nolan’s start. Yuen would go 3.1 innings giving up three runs. Nick Subramaniam would get the win as he pitched 3.2 innings, giving up only one hit and striking out five.
Offensively the Badgers were led by Gideon, who went 2-4 with 2 RBI’s and Legg, who went 2-4 with three RBI’s.
“We want professional at-bats and I think the guys are really starting to show that,” said LePage about a strong offensive weekend. “We’ve been together for a month so guys are getting more comfortable.”
The Badgers are now 8-2 on the season, which ties them with Western for second in the OUA. The Laurier Golden Hawks lead the league with a 9-1 record. The Badgers currently rank as the third best offense and fourth best pitching.
Next Brock will travel to Hamilton this coming Saturday to play the McMaster Marauders for two games. Then on Sunday, the Badgers will play host to Western which will be two of the biggest games of the season. It will be the Badgers first time playing the Mustangs after losing to them in last years OUA Championship. Game times for both days are 12:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.