A steady staff on the mound has ultimately correlated to the success – or demise – of APSU baseball this season.
In the month of April, the Governors had just one win when their opposition scored 10 or more runs in a game. Conversely, they were crowned victors in five of six games last month when pitchers allowed six or fewer runs.
Heading into Tuesday’s midweek match against North Alabama, the pitching corps was trending in the right direction with an earned run average of 3.80 over their past seven contests.
Against the Lions, Southeast Missouri State and Arkansas State, the Govs gave up double digit runs in four of five games. The pitching staff’s ERA in that span skyrocketed to 12.21. APSU won a thriller against UNA on Tuesday, but dropped the next four to close out the week.
Having all 16 pitchers available heading into the weekend against the Red Wolves quickly became a necessity for the Bat Govs (15-27) when game one starter Luke Brown was pulled after just 19 pitches. Brown — who underwent Tommy John surgery last February — was pulled for precautionary reasons, according to head coach Travis Janssen.
Five different pitchers came in behind Brown, who was credited with the loss in Friday’s 12-7 defeat. Arkansas State (14-22) tallied four runs in the second inning off freshman Keegan Mills. From there, the Governors were once again forced to play catch up. The contest got as close as 9-6 in the sixth following a John Bolton score but was quickly countered by ASU in the eighth to seal the deal.
Sebastian Martinez toed the rubber in Saturday’s Senior Day game, which honored the 11 graduating players on roster. He was forced out of the contest by the fifth inning after tossing 87 pitches.
Tucker Weaver, Austin Loeb and Kyle Nunn came in behind Martinez. Loeb struck out five across three innings of one-run ball and set season-highs in innings pitched and strikeouts. The newcomer had allowed 15 earned runs in his previous three outings, but rebounded well on Saturday, being the lone bright spot pitching-wise in the 11-6 loss.
“I’ve been falling off the mound a lot, so I made sure that I was just going towards the plate,” Loeb said. “It also helps when the curveball gets over, so that helped. [I] just have to keep it going.”
Saturday’s staff allowed 17 Arkansas State hits, the second-most allowed all season. APSU gave up 19 knocks on Wednesday in an abbreviated game against SEMO and has allowed an average of 14 hits over the last five games.
“Nobody goes out there trying to give up 17 hits. As a staff, we don’t try to go out there and do that,” Loeb said. “…Like, who cares? Tomorrow’s a new day. Which is awesome about baseball, like we get to go out there again and compete again. It’s awesome.”
Drew McIllwain produced a quality start in the weekend finale, but Nolan O’Shoney and Nick Wellman gave up a pair of earned runs behind him. Trailing by one run in the ninth, ASU scored four times to walk away with a 9-4 win and the series sweep. Sunday’s loss was the fourth consecutive defeat for APSU.
The Govs finish out their homestand on Tuesday against Bellarmine before an OVC road series against Eastern Illinois.