Youthful staff will lead NIU

By Colin Decair

Up until this year, the Oakland A’s have always found their team’s strength coming from the starting pitching – a force that made professional baseball players look like Little Leaguers.

Hopefully, the NIU baseball team will have the same effect with the new wave of pitchers who have just started their Huskie careers. Despite a rocky start, NIU finds itself in a favorable position for the future.

The Huskies have 13 pitchers on their roster this year, seven of which are underclassmen – a perfect recipe for what helped the Minnesota Twins become one of the American League’s best.

There’s no question that pure talent is one of the best ways to improve any team. However, you can’t overlook what a group of players growing together throughout their careers will do.

As a team, the Huskies pitching staff boasts an ERA of 5.27 led by red-shirt freshman Adam Holdenrid’s 2.19 ERA – a decent number allowing only five earned runs in as many appearances, four of which were starts.

Opposing batters have managed only a .278 batting average against him. This can be seen as a positive omen as Holdenrid’s five appearances are as far back as his collegiate career extends.

There are only three other NIU pitchers who hold a lower opponent batting average. Two of them, Dan Atkenson at .250 and Matt German’s .231, are also underclassmen.

The underclassmen have allowed 36 runs this season, a number that is slightly skewed with only 18 of them being earned runs.

Although the Huskies’ record doesn’t show dominance now, its 6-16 mark should not be blamed on the pitching staff. It seems the achilles heel for NIU is their ineffectiveness on defense, giving up 53 errors so far.

So how does the pitching staff’s youth hold better fortunes in the near future if the defense is what’s holding the team back?

The answer is quite simple. Depending on one’s school of baseball philosophy, pitching is the key to making an effective baseball team. If a quality staff is in place, most problems can be made less of a hindrance.

When a pitching staff can limit hitters, two main things happen; It gives the defense less of a chance to make mistakes and allows a low-powered offense not to worry about putting 10 runs on the board each game.

With a quality staff in place for the rest of this season and the next two or three years, the Huskies will have the ability to work through other problems.

Just like the Oakland A’s who rarely had the same roster for more than a couple years, the pitchers were set and allowed the A’s not to miss a beat.