Never mind the pitching, Beaver Baseball is still winning

Puctured+above+is+Oregon+State+junior+pitcher+Brock+Townsend+pitching+against+the+California+State+University+Long+Beach+Sharks+at+Goss+Stadium+on+April+14.+The+Oregon+State+baseball+has+a+total+of%0A21+pitchers+on+the+current+roster%2C+and+constantly+rotates+pitchers+throughout+games.

Matthew Mckenna, OMN Photographer

Puctured above is Oregon State junior pitcher Brock Townsend pitching against the California State University Long Beach Sharks at Goss Stadium on April 14. The Oregon State baseball has a total of 21 pitchers on the current roster, and constantly rotates pitchers throughout games.

Ryan Harlan, Sports Contributor

It’s that time of year again—the flowers are blooming, the sun is shining and Beaver Baseball is back in full swing—otherwise known as spring in Corvallis.

I, for one, am excited for the return of college baseball, especially Beaver Baseball. For those that don’t know, baseball is one of the strongest athletic programs at Oregon State, having earned three national championships with the most recent one being in 2018.

The way to have a successful team like those championship teams is to have a well-rounded team in the bullpen and the batting lineup, also Adley Rutschman. I digress; the baseball team right now has one of those two things and it’s pitching issues in the bullpen.

I want to preface by saying this issue is currently fixable and I understand from a fan’s perspective that it’s a concern, especially if it covers a deficiency that the team might have. I do share some of your concerns, but I want to ease your worry by letting you know that the issue can be fixed. Take a breath and relax. It’s not as bad as it might seem.

I agree that it’s concerning that the talent in the batting lineup can’t always bail out the team in games when they go cold, which has happened a few times so far this season. The team has lost a series to Stanford University, which was their first, but besides that series they can’t seem to close out most games against opponents when they can hang double-digit runs on them at any given point.

Right now, the team’s record is 5-5 in series closing games, which is okay, but there are things to consider as to why the team is struggling in those games. First, the team was down two starters in the pitching lineup, Jacob Pfennigs and Will Frisch. Pfennigs is back after the series win over the University of Southern California, but Frisch will be out due to season-ending Tommy John surgery, which means the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow is being fixed.

Second, the depth behind Frisch and Pfennigs in the bullpen are largely untested and inexperienced, except for Cooper Hjerpe, Brock Townsend, Mitchell Verburg, Reid Sebby and Ian Lawson. As a result, the team has had to rely on a combination of different starters for each series and it’s gotten the job done so far with those absences in the pitching lineup.

The depth of pitchers that have been used so far are Jacob Kmatz, Ryan Brown, Bren Ferrer, DJ Carpenter and Jayson Hibbard. To be quite honest, each performance from the group has been a mixed bag so far. Kmatz and Brown have been solid in their starts, but Carpenter, Hibbard and Ferrer have had some not great performances, which has cost the Beavers  opportunities to close out series games.

However, the lineup has faltered at times against opponents. Some notable games this season have been against the University of Nevada, Reno, University of California, Berkeley, and Arizona State University. The main issues in these games have been management of the bullpen during games and inexperience, the latter of which has been remediated somewhat this season as each pitcher gets more experience being on the mound during a game.

The games that I am referencing against Nevada, California and Arizona State were games that most fans would like to forget, but I am only going to focus on two of them. The game with Nevada was one where inexperience and poor management decisions played into a nine-run rally by Nevada, forcing the team to win close in extra innings. The second game against California was a result of inexperience and an uncharacteristic number of errors that had Oregon State down early and losing the game, despite a rally in the ninth.

Although the team has struggled in closing games, it has won close more times than fans want from the team. The team is still winning series against opponents, and they’ve shown that they can win close, if need be—a need that may arise once postseason play starts. I’d be concerned if the pitching issues aren’t fixed when the season ends, but with the return of Pfennigs it could go in a positive direction.

Until then, the pitching depth will only continue to improve with each game.