Starting pitching keys three wins for baseball

| Sports Reporter

Zoe Kline | Student Life

Senior Taylor Berman delivers a pitch in the Washington University baseball team’s game against Buena Vista University on March 4. Berman gave up just two runs in seven innings to pick up his first win of the season.

During opening weekend, Washington University’s baseball team received a strong pitching performance from senior Stephen Bonser but struggled to keep its opponents off the scoreboard when others were on the mound. In the Bears’ second set of games, though, Bonser turned in another impressive outing, and this time, he got a little help from his friends.

Wash. U.’s starting pitchers combined to cede only three runs in 22.1 innings en route to sweeping the slate of North Central College (3-1) on the road and North Park University (3-0) and Buena Vista University (7-4) at home. After a disappointing first weekend, the Bears vaulted back above .500 in improving their record to 4-2.

“We’ve got a year as a pitching staff under our belt,” Bonser said, attributing its success to “a lot of confidence, a lot of the fact that we know we belong out there. We know that we can dominate any team that we face.”

In the first game, senior Max Gordon allowed a run in the first inning before bearing down and shutting out North Central the rest of the way. In the seventh inning, senior Alan Komorowski relieved Gordon with a runner on second and one out; he stifled the scoring threat and pitched two more scoreless innings to pick up the save.

“Gordon last year really came into his own…and started gaining confidence,” senior Taylor Berman praised, “and I think we knew that he would be a big asset this year.”

On the offensive side, the Bears didn’t score until the seventh inning when freshman Max Golembo ripped a two-out, two-run double. Golembo moved up to the leadoff spot for this week’s games and immediately proved himself worthy of the promotion, reaching base all five times at the plate (two hits and three walks) and driving in all three Wash. U. runs.

The Bears scored once in the first inning of the next game against North Park, and with Bonser on the mound, just that run would have been sufficient for victory. The ace scattered six hits in nine innings and struck out a career-high 12 batters. He has thrown two complete games in both of his starts this season, allowing only two runs and eight hits in 19 innings pitched.

“I don’t want to come out if I feel like I’m 100 percent. And obviously in the last two games, I’ve felt dominant on the mound, so I don’t want to come out,” Bonser said. “I feel like staying out for the entire game gives us the best chance to win.”

“Bonser’s been amazing, dominant,” Berman gushed. “He’s an incredible pitcher, so those games that he pitches we pretty much expect to win.”

The third game was Berman’s turn to shut down an offense. Though he failed to record a strikeout and allowed 11 hits, he induced a double play twice with the bases loaded, and Buena Vista stranded seven runners with Berman on the mound.

“For the most part, they still hit really well,” Berman said. “I gave up 11 hits, so it’s not like I really quieted their bats—I just got fortunate double plays.”

About pitching with runners on base, he said, “The biggest thing is keeping the ball down because we’re trying to get them to ground out into a double play…get them to roll over on something.”

Lest the pitchers take all the credit for the three wins, the Bears’ bats awoke against Buena Vista. Having scored a total of just 10 runs in their last four games, the Red and Green put up seven in the first four innings against the Beavers. Wash. U.’s 6-7-8 hitters—freshman Kyle Kozak, Komorowski and sophomore Brian Cizek—combined for seven hits and four RBIs, providing the quality at-bats that, at least this week, the top of the order was unable to produce consistently.

“It helps a lot. It takes the edge away,” Berman said about Wash. U.’s improved offensive output in his start. “When you have a big lead, you’re just trying to go out there and throw strikes whereas when you’re playing a close game, you’re sort of trying to paint the corners and keep anyone from scoring rather than just limiting damage.”

The position players also contributed a solid defensive performance, turning five double plays in the three games and not making an error that led to a run.

“I think the biggest improvement that we have from last year to this year is our defense has really stepped it up,” Bonser said. “You know, I feel very comfortable throwing balls over the plate and letting guys hit the ball…I’m not afraid to challenge a hitter because I know I have a great defense behind me to back me up in case I make a mistake.”

In two starts so far this season, though, Bonser hasn’t had many mistakes to worry about. If the rest of the rotation matches him in that regard as it did this past week, Wash. U.’s opponents will be hard-pressed to outscore the Red and Green.

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