Senior pitcher leading baseball team

Bobby Scott, Editor-in-Chief

Before this past weekend’s doubleheaders against Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Pitt-Johnstown’s baseball team was struggling to find a rhythm offensively (the team has scored seven runs in the last five games) and defensively (the team has given up 31 runs in the last five games).

The team have relied on and rallied around experienced arms to consume innings.

One of the arms they rely on the most is senior right-hander Derek Younker.

He was recently named Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference western division pitcher of the week thanks to a complete game victory he pitched April 5 against Mercyhurst University.

Younker pitched eight innings while giving up only five hits, one earned run and struckout two batters to give the Mountain Cats a 2-1, extra inning triumph.

“He is a primary starter,” senior right-hander starting pitcher John Fees said.  “His role is very important to the team.”

“He works ahead in counts keeping his pitch count low, letting him last longer in games,” Fees said.

As of April 13, Younker leads the team in innings pitched with 52.  He has made nine appearances this season with eight of them being starts.

He pitched five complete games this season, winning all but one and has left his opponents scoreless in four of eight games started.

His last four starts have all been complete games, with his best being the complete game, extra inning win against Mercyhurst.

He has compiled a team best, 5-3 record this season (the only winning record of the team’s pitchers), gives up an average of 1.13 hits per innings pitched and has the second best earned run average of any starter with a 3.29 average.

In Younker’s most recent start last Friday against Indiana, he threw a complete game shoutout, struckout three batters and gave up six hits with only one of them being an extra base hit.

The Mountain Cats won 2-0 in game one of the weekend’s first doubleheader between the two teams at Point Stadium in Johnstown.

Younker sparked the match that ignited the Mountain Cats’ flame for the weekend as the team went 3-1 against Indiana, outscoring the Crimson Hawks 29-12.

The latest success the Mountain Cats have experienced has propelled the team to their first winning conference record since joining the commonwealth’s conference.

Younker’s next start will likely be this Friday or Saturday either at home or on the road against Slippery Rock University.

The Upcoming games against Slippery Rock should prove to be a benchmark for the Mountain Cats their conference standing.

Younker’s performance could prove to be a difference-maker in how many games the Mountain Cats will win in the two doubleheaders.

“He is a great teammate,” Fees said.

“He helps anyone that needs help and always picks you up if you are not doing so well on that day.”

Being the workhorse of the team’s pitching staff is something that Younker is accustomed to as he led the team last season with a 8-4 record, a 4.16 earned run average and 71 and one-third innings pitched in 2013.

Nationally, his 1.24 walks allowed per nine innings ranked No. 28 in the country.

“I think that the biggest factor is consistent routine that I follow to prepare for games,” Younker said.

“It helps my confidence in all of my pitches throughout the game.”

He said that he works on his throwing mechanics everyday.

Utilizing the trainers to stay healthy, arm band exercises for flexibility, along with running everyday and lifting after starts is what Younker said that is a part of his daily routine.

He also led the team as a sophomore in 2012 with a 6-1 record and a 2.20 earned run average, making second team all-conference.

“(My goal this season is to) make the conference tournament, that is first and foremost,” he said.

Younker said that the goal was primarily for the seniors but also for the rest of the team.

The Mountain Cats have not made a conference tournament since 2011, when the team was part of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and when Younker was just a freshman.

“(I would also like to have a) winning record as a team and to see our team reach our true potential,” he said.

“I have four starts left so I would like to have four more wins to finish my career.”