Pitchers change speed to bait batters

Bobby Scott, Sports Editor

With Pitt-Johnstown’s baseball team’s season about halfway completed, how well the team members pitch becomes more of a factor as time rolls on.

The depth a team has in their bullpen and starting rotation can be the difference between an abysmal and a respectable season.

There are still a lot of conference games for the Mountain Cats to play, but only five of 16 pitchers have pitched more than 10 innings as of March 28.

Pitt-Johnstown’s team pitching ranks last in five statistical categories in the conference, but there is still time for the team to leave a lasting impression on conference foes.

It has to start with pitching, and the key to a good pitcher command of a variety of different pitches.

Senior right-handed pitcher John Fees has been one of the team’s leading pitchers with the second most innings pitched – 26 and one third, as of March 28.

Fees said that he primarily throws fastballs and has second and third options with his slider or curveball.

“I use my fastball to get ahead in the count then I use my off-speed pitches to try and get hitters to chase pitches out of the strike zone,” he said.

“All situations are different, but that is the primary objective.”

Fees said that throwing off-speed pitches often could wear his arm out but said, when it happens, it is typically in cold weather, which he said also can affect a pitcher.

“When it is warmer outside, like in Florida for spring training, I throw a lot better down there,” he said.

“Warmer weather helps to get lose and stay lose.”

Senior right-handed pitcher Rylan Schnably is one of nine pitchers who has yet to pitch more than 10 innings as of March 28, throwing only eight innings so far this season.

Schnably has contributed in all four years he has been on the team.

He made five relief appearances in 2011 as a freshman and as a sophomore made six starts and 14 appearances overall and posted a 4-2 record.

Last season, Schnably had eight appearances and three starts, finishing his junior season with a 2-0 record and 23 innings pitched.

He had elbow and shoulder problems and missed the second half of last season with a shoulder injury.

“I throw a lot of off-speed pitches (for instance), a spiked curve that breaks down hard like going from 12 to six on a clock,” he said.

“(I also throw) a slider that runs away from a right-handed batter, a circle change that looks like a fastball that is slow and runs down and away from left handed batters and a fastball that runs into right handers and away from lefties.”

Schnably said that he likes to use curveballs and sliders to get ahead of batters and uses fastballs to change a hitter’s eyesight and set the batter up for an off-speed pitch.

He also said he prefers to throw change-ups to left-handed batters.

Contrary to Fees, Schnably said that he does not feel that off-speed pitchers or temperature should not affect a pitcher to the point where it throws them off their game.

“Off-speed pitches should not hurt a pitcher unless they do not throw them properly.  Pitching injuries come from overuse,” Schnably said.

“The only thing temperature affects are relief pitchers being cold when they come in when a starting pitcher is tightening up during long innings.”

Schnably said that pitchers throw harder when it is warm but said, no matter what the temperature, they use all of their pitches unless one is not working that day.