More arms bring more optimism for Blazers

Photo by Zack EldridgeMarquette’s Connor Donaldson pitches in the season opener on Monday at John Glenn.

High school baseball — specifically the pitching aspect — has evolved since Marquette coach Casey Martin played at Chesterton under legendary coach Jack Campbell (still coaching after more than 45 years).

Thanks to a rule change last year, a pitch count is now used for the health of pitchers instead of the number of innings. Under 35 pitches doesn’t need a day off, 36-60 pitches is one day off, going up to four days off if a varsity pitcher throws more than 100 pitches in a game.

How did this affect the Blazers last season?

“I completely support the rule for the health of these guys,” Martin said. “But it’s so tough for small schools; it changes the way you coach games.”

So what’s the best solution for a small-school program? How about more pitchers?

Last year the Blazers improved by two wins from the previous campaign — five to seven (7-15 overall) — without a surplus of pitchers.

Connor Donaldson was the No. 1 starter with a 3.30 ERA, and the senior will be back atop the rotation this season. The Blazer with the most pitching appearances last season was reliever and fellow senior Thomas Heo with a 4.00 ERA in 21 innings. Heo will be key again this year.

“He’s got this big loopy curveball that keeps hitters off balance,” Martin said. “He started a couple games, but he helps us as a reliever and we did well with it that way.”

In between, Martin only had two other pitchers. This time it’s different.

Senior Tommy Gotsch, a utility player who mostly has “shortstop” next to his name on the lineup card, will add pitching to his repertoire, while fellow returner Cormack Bardol will pitch a little more as a sophomore.

Bardol’s freshman brother, Sean, comes to Marquette as a new pitcher, as does fellow freshman Jonathan Allen.

Excuse Martin for being optimistic and excited.

“They are experienced pitchers with strong arms,” he said about the two newbies. “If you have a strong arm at a small school, you need to pitch at least a little for your team.

“It’s certainly a luxury having a few more arms this year.”

The optimism isn’t relegated to just the coaching staff.

“This season is going to be a lot of fun,” Donaldson said. “Coach has really come into Marquette and helped turn this program into something that other programs can’t look at as an easy win.

“Last year we lost in the tournament because of a couple things, but pitching depth was a huge reason. Having these two (freshmen) in the rotation will hopefully give us a few more weapons in our arsenal and a better chance at a sectional title.”

Martin added an aspect to his possible pitching plan in between Donaldson starts.

“We may tell everyone to throw an inning (in a game), and if they want to throw more, prove it,” he said, explaining that the proof would come in the form of efficient, low-pitch-count, scoreless innings.

As a former first baseman, Martin is also optimistic about the offense, which includes the team’s fourth senior, center fielder Will Cannon.

“So far in the preseason we’re really hitting the ball hard,” he said.

MARQUETTE BASEBALL SCHEDULE

April 9 — at John Glenn, LOST 9-3

April 10 — at Illiana Christian (Ill.), 4:30 p.m.

April 11 — at Westville, 4 p.m.

April 13 — at Washington Twp., 5 p.m.

April 14 — at Delphi (DH), 11 a.m.

April 16 — at Victory Christian, 4:30 p.m.

April 18 — at South Central, 4:30 p.m.

April 23 — Oregon-Davis, 4:30 p.m.

April 25 — at Kouts, 4:30 p.m.

April 28 — at Hammond Bishop Noll (DH), 11 a.m.

May 2 — Lake Station, 4:30 p.m.

May 3 — La Crosse, 5 p.m.

May 5 — Gary West Side (DH), 11 a.m.

May 10 — Boone Grove, 5 p.m.

May 11 — at Whiting, 5 p.m.

May 12 — at Calumet, 11 a.m.

May 15 — Victory Christian, 4:30 p.m.

May 19 — at South Bend Clay, 11 a.m.

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