Baseball in process of replacing top two starters from '09
The CMU baseball team has the task of replacing two of the Mid-American Conference’s top pitchers this season.
Dan Taylor and Steve Teno ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the MAC’s most innings pitched and total strikeouts. Taylor totaled 80 strikeouts, while Teno struck out 79. Both averaged more than eight per game.
A year later, senior right-hander Jesse Hernandez has become the pitching staff’s ace, leading a relatively experienced starting staff and a first-year closer in Trent Howard.
Hernandez (3-1) leads the team with three wins in five starts. Although he has an earned run average of 4.45, Hernandez leads the team in innings pitched and has struck out 28 batters, an average of 5.6 per game.
“We are at a very good place right now — guys are really coming into their roles and I think everyone is doing what they have to do taking it pitch-by-pitch,” Hernandez said. “I’m just happy with how I’m focused and just taking things one inning at a time.”
Many of CMU’s crucial weekend series start with Hernandez, who likely will get the nod on Fridays. The Chippewas hope Hernandez can set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
Sophomore left-hander Rick Dodridge (2-1), who leads the team with a 1.64 ERA, and junior right-hander Jake Sabol (2-3) will usually follow Hernandez.
“He (Hernandez) is calm and relaxed out there and setting the tone,” Sabol said. “The goal is to get that Friday win because if he wins on Friday, then if one of us gets a win in the next two games, we take the series. For him to set the tone on Friday really gives Rick and I an advantage for the rest of the weekend.”
At the back end of the rotation is Bryce Morrow, who earned his first win of the season earlier this week against Valparaiso.
Also being mixed into the rotation is junior outfielder/left-hander Matt Faiman. Faiman has made two appearances this year and has a 2.57 ERA.
Morrow and Faiman will be counted on throughout the season to start mid-week games. Faiman also will take turns at the plate and defensively in the outfield.
“We feel pretty good where we are as we speak today,” said coach Steve Jaksa. “When you are playing five games in six days, you have to be ready to go. No matter who you are, it’s going to be a battle out there.”
The coaching staff recently moved sophomore Trent Howard into the closer’s role. So far, Howard has two saves and 29 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched.
Sophomore Harvey Martin was the closer last year, but is rehabbing his shoulder after surgery last summer. Jaksa said he is not sure if Martin will return by the end of the season.
“I think Trent Howard has been really consistent,” Jaksa said. “When you get into the Mid-American Conference and you get those tight games, you have got to make sure you have someone that can finish a game.”
Leading the way out of the bullpen are freshman Dietrich Enns and junior Mike Nixon. Enns has a 1.84 ERA and has 16 strikeouts in 14 innings pitched, while Nixon has a 1.93 ERA. Both have allowed a combined six earned runs in 18 total appearances.
“When you come out of the bullpen, there’s not much margin for error,” Jaksa said. “You’re coming in with people in scoring position and we have got to have guys that are throwing strikes. They have to throw quality pitches and those guys have to be pretty good every time out.”