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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

July 25, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Sports

Pitching rotation leading Bombers baseball team

Pat Lemmo steps off of the pitching mound and glances up at the scoreboard. He sees the red bulbs under the word ‘inning’ are lit up to form a large 10. He wipes sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his navy blue Under Armour. Stepping back onto the rubber, Lemmo prepares for his 127th pitch of the game. The catcher gives him a sign: fastball. Lemmo gives him a quick nod, then draws back to check the SUNY-Oswego baserunner, who is dancing off of third base, daring Lemmo to pick him off.

Lemmo refocuses on the batter and adjusts his grip for a fastball. With a quick step and a whip of his arm, he delivers a white blur that the SUNY-Oswego batter is barely able to make contact with. The ball loops into shallow right field, an easy catch for sophomore Christian Brown, who secures the ball in his glove and trots in from his outfield position.

Lemmo returns to the dugout, having pitched 10 innings of one-run baseball. The game has been knotted at one since the fourth inning. SUNY-Oswego retires the Bombers’ offense quietly in the bottom of the 10th, and when the Blue and Gold retake the field, it is sophomore Jimmy Wagner who takes the mound. Wagner, who is normally a starter, holds the Lakers scoreless for three innings and picks up the win when the Bombers manage to put a run across the board in the bottom of the 13th.

In the second game of the doubleheader on March 29, sophomore John Prendergast starts for the Bombers. Prendergast allows just four SUNY-Oswego hits over five innings of work as the Bombers rout the Lakers 10-3.

This has been the pattern for the Bombers’ starting pitchers all year. Each of the four pitchers that make up the starting rotation currently hold an undefeated record. Now, with almost three-quarters of the season in the record books, the combined 3.24 ERA of the starting rotation has made a statement to the Bombers’ opponents, leading the team to an 18-game winning streak, a 22–5 overall record, a top-three ranking in the New York state region and a national rank of 20th.

Head Coach George Valesente said his pitching staff has been crucial in the team’s success so far this season.

“They’ve been doing a great job at taking everything as it comes and actively attacking the opposition to put us in a good position to win,” Valesente said. “Everything they do on and off the field is for the betterment of the team.”

The starting rotation is led by senior ace Lemmo (5–0). Lemmo posts the lowest ERA in the Empire 8 at 1.46, which has also earned him a 54th ranking nationally. Valesente said Lemmo has been a driving force in every game he has pitched.

Jasper Adams, the other senior in the starting rotation, missed his entire junior year because of a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Though he has recently been recovering, Adams has a 3–0 record and is tied for fewest walks allowed among the starters.

Adams’ injury required surgery, and his recovery has been a slow one. He said even though he is not back to where he was two years ago, he is getting over the mental apprehension that usually accompanies serious injuries.

“Recovery has been hard for me,” Adams said. “It’s more of a mental thing now than it is physical. Mentally, I think I may be slightly holding back. But it’s coming back, and it has been quite a process for me.”

While Adams is the fourth pitcher in the rotation, two sophomores hold the second and third spots. Prendergast and Wagner proved themselves as freshmen last year and have continued their success in their second year on the team.

Prendergast, who was named the Empire 8 Rookie of the Year last year after posting an 8–1 record, earned Empire 8 Pitcher of the Week honors this week after pitching a no-hitter through six innings against Utica on Sunday. Prendergast holds the second-best record in the Empire 8 conference at 6–0 behind Wagner.

Wagner, who holds a perfect 7–0 record, is currently tied for the most wins nationally. He has proven his versatility this season by also appearing in two games as a reliever. Valesente said he has seen Wagner develop and improve this year to fill the bigger role.

“Jimmy’s got good stuff, and he has made a lot of progress,” Valesente said. “He has a very sharp slider, an excellent changeup and has good velocity.”

Adams said those in the starting rotation acts as a support system for each other. At the center of this support system is Adams, who can often be heard yelling encouragement to his teammates from the dugout. He said the success of his fellow starters has inspired him to regain his old confidence and form.

“The rest of the rotation sets the bar high,” Adams said. “The results haven’t always been there yet, but I think to see those three guys go out every day and put up the results that they’re having makes me want to follow suit.”

Both Adams and Prendergast emphasized the hard work that each of the members of the rotation puts in daily. Prendergast added that the four teammates work together to become better pitchers.

“We help each other a lot,” Prendergast said. “If we see something that someone else in the rotation can improve, then we let them know. We are always looking at previous pitching charts and working with coach.”

Even though the pitching staff has put together an impressive season, it attributes much of its success to the rest of its team. Prendergast said at the end of the day, the team’s fielders and offensive lineup are what win games. The Bombers have posted a .963 fielding percentage so far and average more than eight runs per game. Prendergast said this allows the pitchers to concentrate on pitching.

“Our offense puts up a lot of runs each game, which … makes our job easier,” Prendergast said. “And we can also attribute our success to our defense. We aren’t stressed out the entire game, and we can focus on going after hitters.”