The Raven baseball team has secured a spot in the postseason for the second straight season after sweeping Earlham this past Saturday. It is also the second season for head coach Matt Bair, who has found success due to his superior starting pitching so far this season.
The team has several starters it can put on the mound, but none have been more successful than junior Joe Moran. Moran has made nine starts for the Ravens with an impressive 7-0 record. In 51 innings pitched, he has struck out 60 batters while walking only 21 and allowing just 16 earned runs.
Any time Moran steps on the mound, you can pretty much pencil in the Ravens to win that game. Not to mention he is also the team’s designated hitter, posting a .385 batting average with five home runs and 24 runs batted in.
It is not just the dominance of Moran that pushes AU into contention for the conference championship. Bair has been able to put together a solid starting rotation that he can rely on to get him deep into games.
Sophomore Clayton White has emerged as the clear number-two starter for the Ravens. In six games started, he has a 4-0 record while allowing just over three runs per game on average. White is a great strikeout pitcher as well, with more than twice as many strikeouts as walks, something that will make any coach thrilled. He recorded a complete game against Earlham on Saturday, allowing just four hits and one run in the 8-1 victory.
Simply put, if Moran and White could pitch every game, the Ravens would be almost impossible to beat. Neither one has pitched a losing decision through a combined 15 games started, and they have accounted for 36% of the teams strikeouts.
Juniors Andrew Rolfsen and Kennedy Parker have rounded out most of the other starts for the Ravens. The two have competed all year long for the “third starter” spot, even though both have pitched out of the bullpen as well.
Ideally, Bair would probably like to have three solid starters for the HCAC tournament with several reliable relievers to turn to in tight moments. Whether Parker or Rolfsen will be called on in that situation remains to be seen, and there are arguments that can be made for both sides.
The bullpen has been great, especially recently. Jordan May and Kyle Gardner have pitched very well in relief situations, with the two lowest ERAs on the team. Kasey Henderson and Jackson Bland have done well closing the door, each recording three saves so far this season to go along with a high number of strikeouts.
The bats have come and gone so far this season for the Ravens. If they wish to make a tournament run, which I think they are capable of, it will come down to the dominant starting pitching. Franklin and Rose-Hulman, the top two teams in the conference, rely heavily on the depth and productivity of their offense. If the Ravens are able to shut them down and get teams into low-scoring games, they should find more success.
When the tournament arrives, the team should be able to ride Moran and White to the finish line as long as they can continue to get strong performances out of the bullpen. They will have a little time in between games, but the tournament is just like the regular season: if you don’t have depth, it will show. That being said, another pitcher might have to make the occasional third start, but if the team is able to get the most out of their top two starters, the regional tournament could come calling.