2013 Bronco Baseball Preview (Part 1 of 3) - Pitching
With the progression made by head coach Billy Gernon and his staff since taking hold of the reigns at Western Michigan in 2011, WMU returns focused and with goals of winning the Mid-American Conference West Division and a MAC Championship.
Last year, Western Michigan posted an overall record of 26-29 and finished third in the West with a 14-12 mark in league play.
One of the keys to achieving this year's goals will be the performance of the pitching staff, which has made steady improvements over the last two years.
In 2011, WMU improved its ERA from 7.62 to 4.03, its lowest team ERA since 1993. The staff rang up 367 strikeouts, the most for the Brown & Gold since 2001 and set the school record for saves with 16.
In 2012, Western Michigan had a 4.81 ERA and tallied 14 saves, second most in a single season, behind the 16 in 2011. WMU allowed just 22 home runs, the fewest since 1993.
The current Bronco pitching staff returns a solid core and has added a couple of live young arms. With the season still a little over a week away, players remain in competition, solidifying spots in the rotation and out of the bullpen. Guys will have a chance to establish themselves in the first two series (Pepperdine & Minnesota), both of which are four-game sets, as well as down in Florida on the Spring trip, March 1-10, before conference play.
"We have a lot of guys that we would like to give opportunities to," commented associate head coach & pitching coach Blaine McFerrin. "We will have a new look in the bullpen, some talented new guys and some savvy veterans. I'm excited to see whose going to step up and take on the roles."
McFerrin oversees the pitching staff and feels like those in the rotation will give the team solid innings.
"I like to have very competitive guys in the rotation and I feel like that is a strong point with this team. (I like) Guys that can lead the team and the rest of the pitching staff each and every time they go out on the mound."
After compiling a solid sophomore season with a 7-4 record and 3.51 ERA in 15 starts, Laudicina looks to elevate his game to the next level. He will be moved from the Saturday starter to the Broncos' Friday starter. Laudicina was recently named preseason Second Team All-MAC by College
Sports Madness, entering 2013.
"Steve is everything we look for in a Friday night guy." McFerrin said. "He has the chance to really set the tone for a series."
Hard work in the off-season has helped Moyer emerge as a leader on staff, and he looks to lock-down a spot in the rotation. The 6-4 lefty made 12 appearances in 2012, eight of which were starts, and collected 32 strikeouts in 35.2 innings. Moyer made mention that quality starts and pitching deeper into games will be important for his growth as a starter and by doing that he will be able to help put the team in a good position to win the MAC.
Coming off an impressive freshman season as a Sunday starter, sophomore right-hander Will Nimke is also expected to be in the rotation again this year. Nimke posted a 4-4 record with a 3.74 ERA in 15 appearances in 2011, 12 of those appearances being starts. He became the first Bronco freshman to throw a complete game since Ethan Hollingsworth in 2006, leading WMU to a 5-4 victory at Notre Dame on April 11.
"I think Will is going to give us more innings and his experience will allow him to play an even bigger role this year." McFerrin said.
One of Western Michigan's go-to arms out of the bullpen will be junior right-hander Monty Porter. Porter broke the school record for appearances in a season last year with 29. Depending on certain situations throughout the season, Porter could be used just as much if not more.
Other players returning with experience on the bump are seniors Chris Bossenbery and Casey Hall, juniors Patrick Borlik and David Brennan, and sophomores Nick Bradley and Matt Nestor. Newcomers include freshmen Gabe Berman, Aaron Dehn, Pat Haynes and Derek Schneider, as well as sophomore transfer Adam Jones.
Western Michigan wants to compete every pitch and keeping walks to a minimum will be a focus. If the staff can achieve the numbers set by the coaching staff then they will have a chance to be the team standing with the trophy at the end of the season.
"Each and every game I want us to be under three walks per game and at the end of the season I'd like to see a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio and 3.50 ERA," said McFerrin. "With those numbers right there and some strong defense, we will find ourselves playing deeper into the season."