Freshman Ian Leatherman logs career-high strikeouts as brother, teammate Pat watches

Freshman pitcher Ian Leatherman pitches the ball against Grand Valley State University on March 26 at Theunissen Stadium

When the Central Michigan baseball team turns to a Leatherman to pitch, coach Jordan Bischel normally looks to senior right-hander Pat. 

After all, he is the strikeout king with 293 punch outs over the course of his career. This season alone, he has 71 strikeouts and has only yielded 23 runs (19 earned) in 71 1/3 innings this season. He also holds an 8-1 record and a 2.36 ERA. 

However, on May 8 against Concordia, the Chippewas turned to freshman right-hander Ian Leatherman.

He delivered a career performance. 

The younger Leatherman notched eight strikeouts in five innings, the longest outing of his CMU tenure.

"It's always important to go out there and show what you can do," Ian said. "I've had stretches where I've shown what I can do and stretches where I've struggled. We have a lot of great leaders so it makes the game easier." 

After defeating Oakland, 14-3, at Theunissen Stadium on May 7, Bischel said he was not looking to have a starter go more than two or three innings.

Bischel's strategy follows a custom that a lot of relief work will be used in mid-week games, especially nonconference games. 

"We've been pitching really well on the weekends in the last two weeks," Bischel said. "When that happens, you don't get a lot of relievers in the game." 

Bischel said that he envisioned that gameplan of having pitchers work a few innings against the Cardinals. 

Until Ian's dominating performance. 

Coming into the nonconference tilt, Ian's longest outing was three innings against Saint Peter's in a 21-2 win on March 6. He struck out four batters in that game and earned his lone win of the season. 

He looked to pick up his second win of the season against Concordia but gave up a run in the fourth inning. The Chippewa offense did not score a run until the seventh inning, which left the freshman out of line for the win. 

Ian's team secured the 3-2 walk-off win over Concordia to move its winning streak to eight games heading into a Mid-American Conference. Since his stellar performance on the bump, CMU has jumped its streak to 11 straight games with a victory.

After the win, Bischel said that Ian's strong start was indicative of working on his game from behind the scenes. Ian said that while true, practice is the key to success. He also attributed much of his progression to Pat's mentorship.

"You shouldn't have to something in front of someone to feel accomplished," he said. "That's something that I've learned a lot from growing up and having an older brother here. He's made that clear that you don't have to do stuff only when coach is watching or your teammates are watching.

When asked about the potential to break Pat's strikeout record some day, Ian and Bischel both joked that Ian would need to be around for a long time. 

Ian continued to say that his brother has left a lasting impact and legacy on the Chippewa program. 

"If I can name for that, then I think that's a good goal to set," Ian said. "(Pat) is a great brother, a great leader and mentor. So if I can do that, I think I'll be in the right direction."

CMU is currently 19-5 in MAC play, good for first place in the league with just four games – three in conference – remaining in the 2019 regular season. Ball State trails behind at 17-5.