Mound duties still need to be determined for NIU baseball

By Andrew Singer

DeKALB | Opening day for the NIU baseball team is two days away, but the Huskies’ pitching rotation is still far from set.

Before jotting down the 2011 rotation in pen, ninth-year head coach Ed Mathey wants to see how his pitchers throw in the first month of the season.

“We’ve got five guys right now,” Mathey said. “Five guys are going to be battling during the first four or five weekends of the season. We need to find out who will be our weekend starters and then who are going to be the mid-week guys.”

RHP Zach Oates, RHP Jeremy Gonzales, LHP Tom Barry, LHP Jake Hermsen, and RHP Tony Manville will be jockeying for position in the NIU rotation.

Oates started six games for the Huskies in 2010, but worked mostly out of the bullpen. The senior went 1-3 with a 5.52 ERA. During the Huskies’ annual Red/Black series in the fall, Oates was working on a change-up. The hurler said his place in the rotation would largely rest on how well the pitch developed.

While Oates will be fighting for a spot in the rotation, Gonzales will almost certainly figure somewhere into it. The senior shared NIU Pitcher of the Year honors after going 4-4 with a 4.30 ERA in 15 starts last spring. After surrendering 48 walks in 2010, Gonzales is looking to improve his command in 2011.

“This season I’m just trying to be more consistent, throw more strikes,” Gonzales said. “As long as I keep us in the game, I’m doing my job.”

Barry, Hermsen, and Manville are all juniors. Manville, however, had to redshirt last season after transferring from Iowa. In 2009, the redshirt junior earned a 6.35 ERA in six games out of the Hawkeye bullpen.

With the majority of games falling on weekends, the most desirable starts will be the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday games.

“The question is who’s in your rotation and who is in your bullpen,” Mathey said. “Then you are talking about two starters for the mid-week stuff that can hopefully get out and have some competitive runs.”

Against Southern Utah this weekend, Mathey is expecting a couple pitchers to come out of the bullpen with something to prove.

“All five of those guys are going to pitch for us and they are all probably going to pitch in meaningful spots,” Mathey said. “It’s just a matter of how well these guys throw the opening weekends out of the bullpen.”

Mathey believes a healthy competition between teammates is a great way to improve the overall chemistry of a ball club.

“Our job as coaches is to get these guys opportunities before we have to make any decisions,” Mathey said.