Inconsistent Pitching Plagues Penn State Baseball’s Start To Season
An inconsistent approach at the plate and shaky defense have hurt the Nittany Lions’ chances of winning so far this season. However, as Penn State baseball loses more and more games through blowout losses, it’s clear that the pitching staff is by far the biggest concern.
In Penn State’s most recent game, an embarrassing 20-6 loss at home to Rutgers, the Nittany Lions required nine pitchers to get through the nine-inning affair. Starter Chase Renner went just one inning, allowing three runs on five hits. Sophomore Carson Kohls pushed the longest of the nine pitchers, throwing 2.2 innings while allowing just one hit.
“[Kohls] really went out there and got ahead of guys, but I don’t think we were doing a very good job of that,” manager Rob Cooper said.
Penn State scored five runs in a big fifth inning to get within striking distance of the Scarlet Knights. That chance to catch up was spoiled, though, when relievers Chad Rogers and Seneca Gregory combined to allow nine earned runs in a little over an inning of work.
“I don’t think we executed pitches where they needed to be,” Cooper said. “It’s more of just not pitching well enough.”
Saturday’s blowout loss to Rutgers is far from the first time the Nittany Lions needed to dive into their bullpen to get through a game. In the team’s 12-0 loss to the Milwaukee Panthers, Cooper used eight pitchers after starter Mason Mellott couldn’t get out of the first.
Since the team returned home from a trip down to North Carolina, Cooper and the Nittany Lion’s pitching coaches have often implemented a bullpen-heavy approach. In the three-game series against Rutgers, Penn State used a total of 18 pitchers.
“I think by the way we used our bullpen and set up our guys, they were able to really compete. It’s worked for us with our top 10-to-12 guys,” said Cooper.
Penn State took the second game of the series against Rutgers 8-6. Starter Tommy Molsky struggled, allowing five earned in just over three innings of work. However, despite the slow start on the mound, Cooper’s approach to handling the pitching staff worked out in the end to give the Nittany Lions their first Big Ten win of the season.
The trio of Jordan Morales, Steven Miller, and Mason Mellott all combined for just one run across 4.2 innings pitched. Junior Kellan Tulio was perfect in his one inning of relief to earn the save.
“[The way we used the bullpen] really helped us win that second game,” said Cooper.
The team’s management does not believe that the heavy workload for certain pitchers is a contributing factor to the struggles on the mound. However, the trend is proving a bit costly for now.
“We just didn’t execute,” Cooper said. “If anything, I think our guys are stronger. Again, it’s not like we used a guy for six innings, 90 pitches, and then had to come back two days later.”
Four pitchers on the roster currently have an ERA in the double digits (with a minimum three innings pitched). Three pitchers have a walks and hits/innings pitched rate (WHIP) above three, too. The NCAA average, meanwhile, is 1.30. The entire pitching staff has a collective ERA of 5.89, more than a point above what is considered average.
The Nittany Lions’ pitching staff will have a shot to improve those numbers when Penn State hosts St. Bonaventure on Wednesday, March 30. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.
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