SHSU bullpen could hinder success

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Former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver claimed the key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals and three -run homers.

Sam Houston baseball has developed the fundamentals, blasts the homers but seems to lack the bullpen help.

The Bearkats have clenched two home series, upsetting former top 25 ranked University of Texas and taking two of three games from the always-talented Arkansas State, and are narrowing their focus to square off against University of Connecticut this weekend. Beyond piecing together rallies at the plate, the Bearkats pitching rotation continues to shake in their spikes early.

Against Arkansas State, of the 11 runs that crossed the plate, SHSUs relief pitching allowed eight of those runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings-enough to drop game one-and stressed the batting lineup to rekindle momentum late in the eighth and ninth innings to edge out a win. From the bats of Ryan OHearn, Spence Rahm and Carter Burgess, the Bearkats lineup has established a venomous bite with the power of their five, six and seven spots.

We [are] really aggressive offensively, and I think the turning point is when we were able to answer back and it was all us offensively, Coach David Pierce said after game three against ASU.

With the expectation of clenching the Southland Conference last season and receiving NCAA top 40 votes early in February, Pierce and his pitching staff must establish confidence in their young bullpen. Having seven freshmen mixed within the pitchers, high school tendencies are exposed against Division I opponents.

I dont want to get to a point where were compensating. Weve got to throw strikes. Thats the bottom line, Pierce said.

Trust in secondary pitches troubles the young arms resulting in lackadaisical approaches to batters and forcing fastballs into the zone that eventually lead to an offensive rally for opposing teams. Forcing pitches in the strike zone only syncs the batters timing. The role of the pitcher is not to succumb to the batters approach, merely to upset and cripple his rhythm at the plate.

Pitching is 80 percent of the game and the other half is hitting and fielding, New York Yankee Mickey Rivers once said.

As for the other 20 percent, SHSU continues to roll through opposing pitchers like batting practice.

In game three against Arkansas State, 11 runs and 15 hits from the sticks of the Bearkats elevated SHSU above the Red Wolves despite an eighth and ninth inning rally by Arkansas State.

Rahm continues to assume the role of the Bearkats biggest power hitter, swinging in the five spot, but his recent hot streak has cooled. Rahm has connected for two homeruns early this season, but his ability to execute extra base hits into the power allies has slowly trickled as pitchers are finding ways to pitch around the freshman. Rahms approach to the plate has shifted from aggressive, swinging at first pitch fastball, to rolling over and pulling low-and-outside fastballs to groundout to third and shortstop.

Burgess and OHearn have maintained plate discipline, setting up Hayden Simerly who is SHSUs RBI leader. The middle of the lineup assumed the stronghold of the Bearkat offense and has recently gained support from the top three and bottom three batters. SHSUs offense, post UH, has developed into an efficient attack with situational hitting and small ball to move runners.

SHSU approaches their conference season after a home series against UCONN and traveling to Dallas Baptist. Facing off against Texas A&M Corpus Christi, the Bearkats need to establish strong support on the mound in late innings and continue to use the entire field at the plate to drive in continuous runs.

For SHSU to make another run for Omaha, tweaking their pitching will solidify another appearance in June.

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