Amid offensive onslaught, QU pitchers get needed outs
QUINCY (WGEM) - Much has been made of the video game batting numbers of the Quincy University baseball team.
But there’s another group of Hawks who have quietly gone about their business while benefitting from the offensive largesse: the pitching staff.
And that was never more apparent than during last weekend’s four-game sweep to capture QU’s fifth Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament championship since 2011.
“They did a great job limiting our opponents’ offensive production,” said QU Coach Matt Schissel, who was named GLVC Coach of the Year after the Hawks also won the conference’s regular season title.
“Our pitchers did a good job limiting walks and hits and managing the game. They are a big part of why we brought home the trophy.”
The four-game numbers for the entire pitching staff showed 36 innings pitched, 30 hits, 27 runs (23 earned), 23 walks and 48 strikeouts. In the process, the Hawks who are ranked seventh in the NCBWA D2 poll, earned a school-record 44th victory.
Another big weekend is on tap for this record-setting QU (44-9) team, which has won 14 games in a row and 24 of its last 25, when it hosts Wayne State (Mich.) and Northwood (Mich.) as part of the NCAA Div. II Midwest Regional No. 1 at QU Stadium.
Fourth-seeded Wayne State (41-11) and fifth-seeded Northwood (47-17) open play at noon Thursday with the loser playing top-seeded QU at the conclusion of the first game. QU swept a four-game home series from Northwood in March. The double-elimination tournament continues Friday and Saturday.
The winner meets the winner of Midwest Regional No. 2 at the University of Illinois-Springfield the following weekend at the higher seed in the Super Regional with that winner advancing to the national tournament in Cary, N.C.
Despite a 37-25 record a year ago, Schissel and his staff were concerned that games were lost because of bullpen failures.
“We lost some games last year because struggles in the bullpen,” Schissel said. “So we strengthened that in the off-season and they were a big piece of our success this season.
“We have some hard throwers down there and they have done a great job of limiting big innings. It has made a big difference.”
The bullpen covered half the 36 innings pitched in the GLVC Tournament allowing just eight hits, 11 runs (eight earned) with 11 walks and 29 strikeouts.
Grad senior right-hander Cruz Meier, the Camp Point Central product and All-GLVC first-team choice, appeared in three of the games, recording a victory and a save.
But probably the best performance was turned in by grad senior left-hander Tyler Carpenter, who covered the final 4.1 innings during a 12-8 semifinal victory over Maryville.
The seldom-used Carpenter allowed just two hits, one walk and struck out seven in delivering a much-needed innings eating effort out of the bullpen.
During the GLVC Tournament, the Hawks also received crucial relief efforts from grad senior right-hander Chase Gockel, freshman left-hander Roman Harrison, senior right-hander Elijah Ecton, senior left-hander Nolan Roseman, junior right-hander Carter Endisch and junior left-hander Brett Panick.
Schissel says the team’s offensive numbers have allowed the team’s pitchers to relax knowing the team will score runs.
QU has hit a school record 117 home runs, scored 489 runs with .333 team batting average and a .613 team slugging percentage. The Hawks have scored in double figures in 23 of 53 games.
“It really gives our pitchers the freedom to know they can make a mistake and it’s not the end of the world,” Schissel said.
“Our pitchers have a comfort level, especially at the start of the game. They can come in the dugout if they have a bad inning and our guys tell them ‘forget about it, we got you.’”
Grad senior right-hander Spencer Walker is the staff ace and will start Thursday’s game. Walker, an All-GLVC first team selection, went six innings in the conference tourney opener against Missouri S&T, allowing eight hits, six runs (five earned) with no walks and eight strikeouts.
Walker is 8-1 with a 3.51 earned run average this season. For his three-year QU career, Walker has won 23 games with just four losses.
Junior left-hander Griffin Kirn, the Quincy Notre Dame product, will start the second game after lasting 4.1 innings in the quarterfinal victory over Indianapolis.
Kirn is 6-1 in 13 starts this season.
If needed, the Hawks can call on junior Kobe Essien and senior grad right-hander Jay Hammel, who started in the semifinal and championship game victories.
Hammel went six innings allowing seven hits and two runs during QU’s 13-6 victory over Drury in the GLVC championship game.
“Our pitchers have done a great job,” Schissel said. “They have played a big part in our success.”
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