TUESDAY MORNING MOUND VISIT: Pitching woes continuing to plague Warriors

Apr. 2—The past couple weeks, I've mentioned the word "consistency" a lot when talking about Lewis-Clark State baseball. For much of the season, the Warriors have been looking for some semblance of that word in both offense and pitching.

The offense has started to figure it out. Now, it's up to the pitching staff to start nailing things down.

LCSC split a four-game series against Oregon Tech last weekend. On the surface, that's not a bad outcome.

The Owls are a talented team and have started to piece things together (kind of like the Warriors).

But when you look at the meat and potatoes of the games, LCSC's pitching woes come to light.

One of the Warriors' two losses was a 13-3 mercy rule rout — the first time LCSC has been mercy-ruled since Feb. 22, 2020, when it fell to British Columbia 17-4.

The Warriors gave up nine runs in the bottom of the fifth inning in that loss against Oregon Tech. The game was tied 2-2 before that.

LCSC's other defeat was a 9-7 hiccup. The Owls put up four runs in the bottom of the eighth to take the lead. If you're adding those up — that's 20 runs the Warriors allowed to Oregon Tech in their two losses. Thirteen of them came in two innings.

In 16 games, LCSC has allowed five or more runs in 13 of them.

The Warriors have had a couple critical late-game fielding errors a couple of different times over that stretch. That's exacerbated some of those numbers. But the pitching still hasn't been good. And looking at the stats shows that.

A couple weekends ago against Eastern Oregon, the pitching staff had the highest ERA in program history going into the series. They moved up a couple of spots from the worst ever when the series was over.

Now, after the series against the Owls, it's back to an all-time high (5.01).

LCSC coach Jake Taylor has described the pitching staff as a "work in progress" a couple different times. That's probably going to continue.

There's been a couple pitchers who have been consistent for the Warriors and will be fixtures in the staff for the rest of the season. But there are still spots in the rotation available. Probably more than there should be with four weeks left in the regular season.

But what makes that fact so confusing is that it's not for a lack of talent. And there's been some good amongst the bad.

Even in the series against the Owls, Cam Smith earned his fourth save of the season in Game 1 and pitched four scoreless innings. In Game 3, Jace Hanson allowed no runs in 5 1/3 innings pitched. Almost every pitcher that's made an appearance this season has at least one good outing to their name.

On top of the performances of Smith and Hanson, there's been good outings from Dallas McGill. Landon Webb has looked decent since making his debut for the team coming off an injury.

And it's not like the Warriors are pressed for favorable results. They're currently 19-9 and 9-3 in the Cascade Conference. They also haven't lost a series since Cascade Conference play began.

The offense is also a lot more consistent than it was even three weeks ago.

On the other hand, only six of 16 pitchers on the roster to make five or more appearances have an ERA below 5.00.

There are four series left in the regular season — 16 games. And those series are the most critical of the season.

The remaining teams on the slate for LCSC are College of Idaho (which split a series with the Warriors already), No. 3 LSU Shreveport, UBC, and Bushnell (which won a series 3-1 against LCSC earlier in the year).

Currently, the Warriors are in a three-team tie for first place in the Cascade Conference with Oregon Tech and Bushnell. This would put them in the postseason conference tournament if the season ended today.

Even if something catastrophic happened and LCSC didn't make the postseason conference tournament, it's still guaranteed a spot in the national tournament. The Warriors get an automatic bid to the NAIA Opening Round with Harris Field being a host site.

This isn't the first time the Warriors have gone through this. Last season they had some pitching struggles, which directly contributed to their struggles during the regular season. Right before and during the postseason, the bullpen emerged as a legitimate strength of the team.

The talent is there for the pitching to figure itself out. Starters Shane Spencer and Drake George are both top 10 in the nation in pitcher digs (a stat placing a score on multi-inning pitchers while taking into account ballparks, conferences and box score statistics).

There's been some good moments from the staff this season, enough that any faith placed in them figuring it out isn't misplaced.

When the postseason roles around, there will be a final roster. The staff will have to be better than a "work in progress" by that point.

Kowatsch can be contacted at 208-848-2268, or on Twitter @Teren_Kowatsch.