Don’t Overlook the Bullpen

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Utah Utes pitcher Tanner Thomas (19) pitching against BYU at Smiths Ballpark on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. (Chris Ayers|Daily Utah Chronicle.)

Some starts on the mound have gotten off on the wrong foot while other appearances have been solid and dominating for the University of Utah baseball team. The pitching rotation that is compiled up of one freshman, one sophomore and two juniors is full of talent. Despite some of the outcomes the team has had to deal with this season where pitching has been a struggle, when glancing at the roster and examining the bullpen, it is clear that the arms to throw are there and that the depth is no joke.

“You make 15 regular season starts and you’re not going to be great in every single one of them,” said left-handed starting pitcher Josh Lapiana. “[It’s great] to have that depth and to have that bullpen where if something doesn’t go right we can rely on those guys heavily to back us up.”

Utah looks to Lapiana (2-3), Jayson Rose (3-2), Riley Ottesen (4-1) and Jacob Rebar (2-4) to get things started for the Utes on the mound.

“We really try to get two out of three quality starts from out starters on the weekend,” Lapiana said. “If we can go six and give up three runs we feel like our offense is good enough to compete with anybody.”

Freshman Rebar, who is expected to be pitching midweek games, had a tough outing against BYU earlier this season where help from the bullpen to try and stabilize the game was needed.

The Utes quickly turned to Chase Bauerle, Tanner Thomas, Spencer Kevin Johnson, Trenton Stoltz, Dylan Drachler, Hunter Rodriguez and Lars Lofgren — it was both Johnson’s and Lofgren’s first appearances on the mound this year — to try and gain control of the ballgame and stop the damage on the field. Although the Utes fell short of the victory and had to use eight pitchers on the mound, showcasing those faces was proof of the depth this Utah team possesses.

Against instate teams like BYU and when facing conference competition, having a bullpen that can help on the mound when needed is crucial. The bullpen really plays a big role in how games will turn out in the end.

“The bullpen determines most games in the Pac-12,” said head coach Bill Kinneberg. “Every starter is good on every team and most games are decided sixth, seventh, eighth innings. So you’re putting it in the hands of your bullpen and when that’s solid and that’s good you’re going to win more games.”

When taking a look at some of the numbers that guys who are a part of the bullpen have been able to generate shows the impact they have and hold in this game. Bauerle has struck out 14 and holds a 1.12 ERA. Thomas has made 11 appearances — pitched 20 innings — and has 1-0 record with an ERA of 2.70. Stoltz has pitched 9 1/3 innings, and he leads the team and is tied for sixth place in the league with 13 appearances. Although he is 0-1 on the season, Stoltz has also struck out six on the season and has a 2.89 ERA.

Utah’s go-to closer Dylan Drachler is quick, powerful and he gets the job done. Drachler is fifth in the conference with four saves. He has eleven strikeouts after pitching in eleven games for a 3.29 ERA.

The numbers are proof that the bullpen that contributes heavily on the mound is nothing to overlook. What they bring to the game is something the team could not do without. In whatever situation the Utes may be in the dominant throwers are ready to step in when it is time for the starters to be replaced.

“The bullpen is vital,” Kinneberg said. “The depth in your pitching staff is vital in this league.”

b.colindres@dailyutahchronicle.com

@Britt_Colindres

Brittni Colindres
Brittni Colindres is in her first year with The Daily Utah Chronicle where she began as a sports writer and now serves as the sports editor. She has interned at ABC 4 Utah in the sports department, and she was previously the Editor-in-Chief of The Globe at Salt Lake Community College. Currently, she is a producer at ESPN 700 radio.

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