Daily Egyptian

Three new pitchers to fill weekend rotation for Saluki baseball

By Thomas Donley, @tdonleyDE

Saluki baseball’s pitching staff has a chance this season to reverse fortunes that led to it finishing last in the Missouri Valley Conference in most statistical categories in 2015.

The road to a better pitching staff begins with the weekend starting rotation, which has been overhauled for 2016.

College baseball teams play three-game series every weekend, with the aces facing each other Friday. The second-best starters pitch Saturday and the third-best take the mound Sunday. 

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The Salukis posted a 6.14 ERA as a pitching staff in 2015, with seniors Aaron Hauge and Bryce Sablotny and sophomore Kyle Pruemer making most of the weekend starts.

Coach Ken Henderson said transfer junior left-hander Joey Marciano, junior right-hander Chad Whitmer and sophomore righty Michael Baird will make up the weekend rotation in the Salukis’ first series of the season, Friday through Sunday at McNeese State.

Back with the team as a graduate senior, Sablotny will start Tuesday at Austin Peay.

Marciano made 11 starts at John A. Logan College, posting a 7-4 record and a 2.52 ERA with six complete games.

He said he is ready for his first season of Division I baseball.

“My pitching was phenomenal [this offseason],” Marciano said. “I felt like I was staying behind the ball and throwing strikes, locating the ball on either side of the plate.”

Marciano said although he has not worn an NCAA uniform, he had success against hitters committed to play at the Division I level while with the Volunteers.

“We recruited him to be a weekend guy for us,” Henderson said. “And he hasn’t disappointed.”

Whitmer was 0-3 with a 4.68 ERA in three starts last season, earning weekend starts after an injury to Hauge, the Salukis’ regular Friday starter. His best game came in his third start, a seven-inning, no earned run effort in a loss to Missouri State on May 8.

“It was nice to get some starts in last year and kind of get a feel for what that’s all about,” Whitmer said. “It’s going to help me a lot this year because I won’t be going out there making my first start. I’ll have some experience.”

Henderson said he noticed a change in Whitmer’s work ethic this offseason.

“He’s a different guy than he was a year ago,” Henderson said. “He’s more dedicated, working hard and doing everything we need him to do. He’s certainly earned the opportunity.

Baird allowed 10 earned runs in 5 2/3 innings combined in his two starts, taking the loss in both contests. He showed flashes of potential later in the season, most notably April 14 in four innings of one-run relief at Southeast Missouri State.

“Baird is an interesting guy,” Henderson said. “He probably has the best stuff on the team. He’s got a good arm and really good off-speed stuff. He can throw it for strikes.” 

Henderson said Baird was unable to throw in the fall with an elbow injury, but he is healthy now.

The only returning member of the regular 2015 rotation, Sablotny, was 2-4 in 10 starts as the Saturday starter last year. His 3.95 ERA was second on the team to junior relief pitcher Colten Selvey. If Marciano, Whitmer or Baird is unable to make his start, Henderson said Sablotny would fill that spot.

Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3307

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