With the Berks County League – and the entire state of Pennsylvania, for that matter – switching from aluminum bats to wooden bats for its legion games this season, strong pitching is even more of a must for the 2013 legion baseball Bears.
Fortunately, Bear pitching has met the challenge so far during this 2013 season, and is a principal reason for the Bears’ strong 17-5-2 start.
“They’re the mainstay of our team,” commented head coach Rick Moatz following the most recent victory, a 7-0 win at Shillington this past Sunday in which starter Brandon Griesemer threw a complete-game three-hit shutout. “They’re getting better, they’re working hard, throwing strikes” added assistant coach Craig Eddinger, while assistant coach Chris Mackey acknowledged that the pitchers are “learning efficiency” after Griesemer needed only 94 pitches to complete his gem.
After 24 games this season, Bear pitching has allowed only 52 earned runs, an average of only 2.2 earned runs per game and an improvement over last season’s figure of 2.56 earned runs per game. In addition, the Bears have spun seven shutouts (one of which was a rare, 0-0 tie), and had six additional games in which the opponent managed no more than 1 earned run. And only once have Bear pitchers allowed more than 5 earned runs in a game.
Boyertown pitchers are especially strong in league contests. In 12 league games, the Bears have allowed a total of 20 runs. Half of those 12 league games resulted in shutout victories. It is no surprise, then, that the Bears are in first place in the Berks County League with a sparkling, 11-1 record with a little more than half of their league games completed.
On the season, 11 of the 18 rostered Bears have pitched at least one inning on the season. However, the bulwark of the Bears’ pitching staff is the so-called “Big Four” of Tyler Bauman, Brandon Griesemer, Mitch Renninger, and Dan Woodley. Together, these four pitchers have accounted for just over 60% of the innings pitched this season. They have also started all 12 league games on the season.
Each member of the Big Four brings makes his own contribution to the success of the Bears’ pitching. Renninger, the lone right-hander in the group and the starting pitcher on opening day versus Doylestown, has notched a pair of league wins (including a strong, near complete-game win over Norchester) and a 4-inning, league save this season. Bauman, meanwhile, opened the league season by combining with rookie Sean Pavlik on a three-hit shutout versus Daniel Boone, then combined with Pavlik and Griesemer to shutout Conrad Weiser on 4 hits.
Woodley, who emerged as the staff ace by the end of last season, has not allowed an earned run in a league game this season and in fact was only scored on in one game this season. He combined with Griesemer to shutout Twin Valley (Boyertown’s closest competitors) on a 2-hitter and combined with Renninger to shutout Shillington on 4 hits. Perhaps his best performance, however, occurred in the Bears’ first game with Norchester. Woodley started the game and pitched 6 no-hit innings before leaving the game after reaching a pre-determined pitch count.
The Bears eventually would win that Norchester game in a 10-inning thriller thanks to the contributions of the fourth of the Big Four, Brandon Griesemer. The only member of the group to bat regularly, it was Griesemer who forced extra-innings when he tied the game with a titanic, two-run double to deep centerfield after the Bears were down to their last out. He then scored the winning run after leading off the bottom of the tenth with a sacrifice fly. Recently, Griesemer also collected a pair of hits, including a booming triple, to support his own shutout pitching in that recent win over Shillington. He leads the team with four wins and is tied for the team lead with Pavlik with two saves.
Each of the pitchers knows the value of pitching, and recognizes the job that he must do on the mound. “I think the four starters have gone in, done their job, given us a chance to win every time” says Renninger while acknowledging the contributions of other pitchers such as Pavlik and Chase Endy.
Griesemer, who similarly acknowledged the contributions of Brett Moyer and Luke Stong, notes that “Pitching and defense wins baseball games, so we’ve done a lot of good things there,” adding that “With the wooden bat you can throw a lot more strikes because kids aren’t as good with wood as they are with metal, they don’t get those metal bat hits.”
Woodley, meanwhile, doesn’t forget the role of the offense in the team’s success. “The pitching’s done a great job this year, just like last year,” he said. “I think it’s our strongest point, but it’s nice, the offense is coming around this year, given us a lot of run support, and I think it’s given the pitchers a lot of confidence when they get that support to just keep throwing strikes.”
Finally, Bauman sums it up by stating “I think job of the pitchers is to go out there and throw strikes and give your team a chance to win and I think that’s what our pitchers have done every game and will continue to do the rest of the season.”
Perhaps the most succinct summary of the key importance – and the key performance – of the Bears’ pitching in 2013, though, was made by pitching coach Pete Hiryak. The most recent Boyertown inductee in the Pennsylvania Legion Baseball Hall of Fame, Hiryak observed “They certainly are keeping us in games. And they need to. We’re relying on them to keep us in the games. They’re learning how to pitch, they’re learning how to pitch with people on base. They’re getting something other than a fastball over when they’re behind in the count.”
“Certainly, they’re learning how to pitch.”
CHALK DUST: The Bears completed their three-game, regular-season series with Shillington with the Sunday win. The Bears then took a well-deserved day off on Monday before resuming their hectic schedule with a rare doubleheader (versus Daniel Boone) on Tuesday followed by league games with West Lawn and Exeter as this article goes to press . . .