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Pitching fuels current W&M baseball streak

Less than halfway through his first season as William and Mary’s head baseball coach, Jamie Pinzino doesn’t look too far ahead or consider wins as much more than daily snapshots at this point.

That’s not to say he takes lightly the Tribe’s present streak or its recent remarkable weekend. William and Mary won seven in a row, before Wednesday’s game at Norfolk State, to run its record to 17-8.

“In baseball, they say momentum’s only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher,” Pinzino said Wednesday morning, the day after the Tribe’s 10-4 win at East Carolina.

Starting pitching is the primary reason for W&M’s success and a lights-out performance in last weekend’s series at Northeastern.

William and Mary won three 1-0, complete-game shutouts in Boston to run its CAA record to 5-1. Pitchers Brett Koehler, John Farrell and Jason Inghram gave the bullpen the weekend off. They allowed only 14 hits, struck out 21 and walked five.

“If you had told us we were going to score three runs and win the series, the odds aren’t very good for that,” Pinzino said.

Two years ago, Pinzino coincidentally was the pitching coach at Northeastern when the Huskies swept Hofstra with three shutouts — the closest thing he’s experienced to last weekend.

“It’s even more impressive when it’s 1-0 games,” he said, “because there’s so much more pressure on that pitcher, to make every pitch when it’s 0-0, or 1-0. Even on defense, there’s more pressure, because you’re one ball being thrown away from giving up a run.”

Northeastern pitched equally well, allowing the Tribe just 11 hits. W&M managed to get at least one timely hit per game, while the Huskies were 0-for-16 with runners in scoring position.

“It doesn’t win us any championships,” Pinzino said. “It doesn’t win us anything, really. But it’s kind of nice, because it’s something that nobody can take away from us and it’s a weekend that they’re always going to remember later in life.”

All three of the Tribe’s weekend starters have been extraordinarily efficient. They’ve pitched a combined 130.1 innings, with 97 strikeouts and 17 walks. Farrell, a senior righthander, has thrown three complete games and averages nearly eight innings per start.

Koehler, a senior righthander, averages seven innings per start, and Inghram, a sophomore lefty, nearly seven innings per start.

“As a starter,” Pinzino said, “when you don’t beat yourself and you throw a lot of strikes and force the other team to earn what they get, you can be pretty successful, and that’s what those guys have done.”

Mid-week starters Matt Wainman, who earned the win at ECU, and J.T. Castner also have pitched well of late. Set-up reliever John Sheehan has pitched in 12 games thus far, and freshman Mitchell Aker so far has embraced his role as closer.

“The staff is starting to come together,” Pinzino said.

Pinzino primarily handled pitchers as an assistant for former head coach Frank Leoni last season. He’s confident allowing his starters to pitch deep into games, because of their experience and his knowledge of their capabilities.

The Tribe’s pitching also has provided cover for an offense that remains a work-in-progress. All-conference Ryan Lindemuth (.356) and Ryan Brown (.315) are consistent producers. Pinzino has juggled lineups to find effective combinations and hoping that warm weather and experience will help Tribe bats.

Pinzino isn’t concerned with the team’s record and focuses on improving. If the Tribe continues to pitch the way it has recently, it will be in position to win a lot of games.

“We’re just trying to worry about day-to-day and play the best we can,” he said. “The way I was always taught is that’s how you go about it. You kind of keep your head down and approach every game the same way, all 56 of them, and when we get to the end of May, we’ll worry about the record and where we are in the conference and things like that.

“We haven’t even played half the schedule yet and we’ve only played six conference games out of 27. There’s a heck of a long way to go. I think it’s way too early to worry about where we are in the conference or where we might end up. You start looking too far ahead and you lose focus on what we’re trying to do on a daily basis.”

 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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