Countdown To Opening Day: Relief Pitching
Feb. 13, 2014
Without any question the strength of the 2014 squad is the pitching staff as it welcomes back nine hurlers from a year ago to go along with six new faces. In the bullpen, fourth-year pitching coach Dan Roszel will turn too senior Drew Reynolds to anchor his staff once again, while using a mix of young an veteran arms to bridge the gap from his starting pitching to Reynolds.
Reynolds, a two-time National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Stopper-of-the-Year Watch List candidate, will be called on for the third-straight year to close out games as the season approaches. Reynolds, a Second-Team All-American as a utility player a year ago, brings a lot of experience to the bullpen after appearing in 51 career games with 24 saves and 56 strikeouts in 68/1 innings of work.
During his junior campaign, the Cherryville, N.C. native posted a 3-2 record with a 2.92 ERA and recorded a league and team-best 14 saves, which also ranked 14th nationally. Entering the 2014 season, Reynolds is three saves shy of breaking the school's all-time saves record, which is currently held by Seth Simmons (26 from 2008-11). He has garnered All-America honors by the NCBWA (first-team) and Collegiate Baseball (second-team), as well as first-team all-league accolades by College Sports Madness and Perfect Game. Reynolds was also named C-USA Co-Offensive Player-of-the-Year by the leagues 13 head coaches back on January 29.
Senior Ryan Williams will make the move to the bullpen this year after working as a member of the Pirates' weekend rotation a year ago. In 2013 he appeared in 18 games making 15 starts where he posted a 6-2 record with a 4.50 ERA during his initial year with the Pirates. The right-hander from Morgan Hill, Calif., allowed 55 runs (48 earned) in 96.0 innings and struck out 45 batters while walking just 17 - ranking second in Conference USA.
Williams made his Pirate debut against No. 25 Virginia (Feb. 16) surrendering four runs (three earned) on six hits over six innings with a pair of punch-outs in a no-decision. In his next three starts, he notched wins against Boston College (Feb. 22), St. John's (Mar. 2) and Monmouth (Mar. 9) tossing at least seven full innings in each outing. He improved to 4-0 with a win at Jacksonville (Mar. 16) in his fifth start, followed by relief victories at Elon (Mar. 27) and Gardner-Webb (Apr. 30) pushing his season total to six wins, tying Jeff Hoffman for the team lead. Though he will be used primarily late in the games (possible seventh and eighth frames), Williams could get a midweek spot start or two depending on how the rotation takes shape as the season unveils.
Also returning to the bullpen is senior Brett Mabry, who along side Williams will help solidify the gap between the starters and Reynolds. The right-hander appeared in 19 games making a pair of starts posting a 4-3 record with one save. He sported a team-best 2.35 ERA allowing 15 runs (12 earned) on 36 hits in 46.0 innings. The Shelby, N.C. native fanned 28 batters while walking just 12 and held opposing hitters to a composite .225 average. On nine occasions he made extended relief appearances of two or more frames notching wins against N.C. Central, Memphis, Southern Miss and UCF. Just like Williams, he could be called on for a midweek spot start or two as the season goes along.
In addition to the aforementioned hurlers, Roszel will have a plethora of arms he can turn to during a course of a game. Sophomore Nick Durazo (Broadway, N.C.), who appeared in 10 games making six starts) will likely be the first left-hander out of the bullpen. A year ago he posted a 1-4 record with a 7.36 ERA in 29.1 innings. Juniors James Gray (St. Petersburg, Fla.) and Brandon Taylor (Baltimore, Md.) will be counted on for extended relief, while a quartet of freshmen in Luke Bolka (Mechanicsville, Va.), Bryce Harman (Chesterfield, Va.), Evan Kruczynski (Franklin, Wisc.), Philip Perry (Concord, N.C.) and Jacob Wolfe (Haw River, N.C.) will be used in situational match-ups and could be counted on for an inning or more of relief.
Check back tomorrow when we take a look at the Pirate starting pitchers.