The odd thing about a baseball or softball game is that, in theory, it might never end. Unlike other sports where there’s a clock or time limit, baseball and softball are all about recording a certain number of outs, 27 and 21 respectively.
At Marist, one of these teams is having much more success at that than the other.
On Apr. 8, it took the Marist softball team just over 90 minutes to defeat Saint Peter’s in the first game of a doubleheader at North Field. Staff ace Calista Phippen notched her ninth win of the season in a shutout performance with five strikeouts against the Peacocks. The Red Foxes brought out the brooms and took game two, 8-5.
Since then, the team split doubleheaders on the road at UMass and Siena, with the two games in Loudonville against another league contender being especially close. After going through a difficult non-conference schedule, Marist now sits at 6-2 in the MAAC and 18-21 overall.
On that same day, about a 10-minute walk across campus, it was a much different story at McCann Field.
The baseball team dropped a 16-7 rubber match to Mount St. Mary’s that lasted nearly four hours. Lance Ratchford used five pitchers in the game, with starter Jack Bowery giving up six runs in five innings and the four relievers that followed who all allowed two or more earned runs.
There was some encouragement from the weekend series at Siena, as the Red Foxes took two out of three games. In the rubber match on Sunday, Marist pitching turned in its best performance of the season with Zane Kmietek and Jack Keenan combining to allow just six hits in an 8-1 victory.
It was a sign of progress, but there’s still a long way to go if the team wants to reverse its fortunes. The Red Foxes are just 7-26 overall and 3-6 in the MAAC.
For Marist baseball and softball, pitching tells the story of the 2023 season. Both teams faced harsh schedules in the early going, but only one has been able to turn things around as MAAC play has gotten underway.
You never like to put too much stock into early season results, but when Marist baseball lost 33-5 (you’re reading that correctly) to get swept at William & Mary, it was a truly stunning result. The game saw Marist pitchers allow 23 hits, allow 15 walks, and hit 10 batters. Three pitchers only recorded one out while surrendering multiple runs.
A few weeks later in a three-game set at Florida International, the Red Foxes scored 33 runs over the weekend. Marist pitching allowed 40 runs, and the team got swept, losing two particularly tight, high-scoring contests.
It is startling that the Red Foxes have allowed 10 or more runs in 14 of their 33 games to this point in the season. The team has a 9.82 earned run average, meaning that Marist pitching allows more than one opposing player to cross the plate per inning. Unsurprisingly, the Red Foxes rank near the bottom of the country in team ERA.
Marist’s most-used pitcher, Brian Yetter, has a 7.56 ERA and a 2.26 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) in 41.2 innings. More concerningly, he possesses the second-best ERA on the team—A.J Thomas leads with a 7.11 ERA in just 12.2 innings pitched.
No matter how much you hit, it’s going to be difficult to win if you give up that many runs.
There’s no doubt that Marist misses its top two arms from last year in Alex Pansini and Erubiel Candelario (who transferred to Pittsburgh). The duo’s numbers were almost identical with Pansini’s 4.21 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 77 innings pitched just beating out Candelario’s 4.24 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 76.1 innings.
The team’s five most-used pitchers this season—Yetter, Keenan, Bowery, John Hacker, and Quinn Drake—all threw at least 10 innings in 2022. Despite the seeming advantage of having another year of experience, only Hacker’s numbers have improved (and he still has a 9.70 ERA this season), while the other four have regressed.
As a certain radio announcer likes to say, “That’s baseball, Suzyn.”
On the flip side, the softball team has been very impressive since conference play began.
The team strung together seven consecutive wins before falling in the second game of a doubleheader at Massachusetts. While the length of the game and rotation patterns differ from baseball, the Red Foxes can trace their success back to solid pitching.
Phippen is the unquestioned leader of Joe Ausanio’s pitching staff. After tossing another complete game in the game-one win at UMass, Phippen’s ERA dipped below 2.00.
In softball, there isn’t as much of a need for depth on the pitching staff. But you would still expect a pretty big drop-off after Phippen. That’s not the case.
Kiley Myers, the team’s second starter, is a more-than-viable option in the circle. While her win-loss record isn’t as good as Phippen’s (5-5 compared to 10-6), her ERA is a stellar 2.79, and her WHIP is 1.33, just a shade higher than Phippen’s 1.25.
Even Maddie Pleasants, the third pitching option, has been a bit unlucky, giving up several unearned runs in some of her rockier outings this season.
But these Red Foxes have a one-two punch they can lean on as the postseason draws closer. Over the 7-game win streak, Marist held its opponents to three runs or less five times.
In conference play, the Red Foxes have the best team ERA (2.29) and third in the league in batting average against (.230).
All of this removes the burden from the offense, which is more than capable of picking up their pitchers when either of them is having an uncharacteristically bad day. Marist bats are hitting .332 in the MAAC and lead the league with 50 runs in eight games of league play.
With the MAAC Tournaments approaching for softball (May 10-14) and creeping closer for baseball (May 24-28), pitching will determine just how far both of these teams make it in the postseason.
The top six teams make it to the postseason tournament in both sports. Phippen and Myers can help softball make a run while baseball’s pitching staff needs to get things sorted if it even wants to throw its hat in the ring.
Edited by Dan Aulbach
Photos from Marist Athletics