Baseball begins season with more pitching depth than years past

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor

Senior pitcher Kevin Hodgson performs a drill during a practice last week.

Updated: Feb. 20, 2018 at 12:10 p.m.

Of baseball’s 33 rostered players, 19 of them share time at one position.

It’s the most pitchers head coach Gregg Ritchie has ever carried at GW, but not completely out of the norm. The Colonials carried 16 arms in each of the past two years and always look to have a deeper bullpen than would usually be needed in a single game.

But this year, coaches said the pitching staff will be different. For the first time since Ritchie arrived in Foggy Bottom six years ago, more than half of GW’s pitchers will be expected to compete for major roles and none of the team’s starting spots are locked up yet.

With a large portion of impact pitchers returning and multiple transfers joining the rotation, the Colonials have more players ready to pitch than innings available.

“We have a choice through competition, that there are seven guys who could potentially start. We have never been there before,” Ritchie said. “There is way more balance now. We have better arms than we have ever had.”

In the season-opening series last weekend, GW lost all three games on the road to Florida Atlantic, allowing 12 runs through three games.

Despite the losses, Ritchie and pitching coach Rick Oliveri said they have been pleased with the progression of the Colonials’ pitching staff and see the additional depth as freedom to try out players in different spots and determine who will be a major role in the rotation by April and May.

Twelve pitchers were used in Florida, allowing opposing players to hit just .207, but walking 15 batters. Oliveri said prior to conference play, which begins in late March, he is trying to mold his staff into form and figure out who deserves to get innings in the playoff picture.

“There are so many innings going on and not everybody is necessarily built up to throw 100 pitches in an outing,” Oliveri – who is in his second year at GW – said. “Guys are going to get to show us what they can do over these next five weeks of preseason.”

After last season, when a young and inexperienced group of players took the mound game after game and finished with 14 A-10 wins, GW returns the majority of its impact pitchers. The increased experience may help the Colonials rely on more people in the bullpen or try out different people during early games.

“I think this year is actually the right situation in terms of building a program,” Ritchie said. “There is some returning leadership and some returning success on one side and there is some on the others side. But there is also some injection of some new, young, fresh, talented faces.”

GW’s top two returning starting pitchers, sophomore Elliott Raimo and senior Brady Renner, will serve as the team’s go-to starters over the next few weeks and will garner a number of the team’s weekend starts throughout the season.

The duo combined for a 16-8 record last year – more than half of GW’s wins – and Raimo was considered one of the best pitchers in the A-10 – winning rookie of the week three times. But Oliveri said they will still have to compete for their spots.

“There are guys on their heels right now,” Oliveri said. “There are guys that want to take their jobs from them and when you have that dynamic on the team, it makes everybody better.”

Raimo said the competition helps him reach his goals, including lowering his ERA and going the year without a loss. But he plans to focus on the short term and worry more about improving as the season goes on, he added.

“I am not going to try to do too much on the mound, it doesn’t really change anything for me,” Raimo said. “I know that I had good times of the year but I also had times that I used to learn.”

The top half of the pitching staff will be rounded out by a group of first-year Colonials and a returning core of young arms who are looking to play a larger role.

Ritchie recruited two Junior College pitchers, juniors Pat Knight and Nathan Woods, to immediately add power to GW’s rotation. Knight started the Colonials’ season opener, and both will be counted on heavily to replicate their standout JUCO campaigns.

Senior outfielder Isaiah Pasteur, who sat out last season after transferring from Indiana, will also get some chances to test out his arm on the mound.

But for the Colonials to be truly as deep as they hope, coaches said their sophomore class will have to play at a higher level than they did as freshmen. Second-year players including Raimo, Jaret Edwards, Emmett Harkins and Andrew Wheeler were all names Ritchie said could make an impact.

“There are a good number of guys in that sophomore class that I think are going to have to step up for us to be a really solid pitching staff,” Oliveri said.

The only major pitching loss GW suffered during the offseason was the graduation of right-hander Eddie Muhl. He was the team’s go-to closer and holds the program’s record for career saves with 40.

In his place, junior pitcher Will Kobos has established himself as the best option at the back end of GW’s bullpen. Coaches said they were confident in his ability to finish games but were unsure about who would take the ball around the seventh inning.

“As much of a loss as Eddie was, I think we can be able to – with the help of Kobos and his experience – be pretty good going down the road,” Raimo said.

The Colonials return to action this weekend at Stetson before hosting their first home game against Georgetown Feb. 27.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly identified the player in the photo. It is senior pitcher Kevin Hodgson. We regret this error.

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