Baseball: Weather, pitch counts make depth on mound vital in final stretch for Aurora teams

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Rangeview senior Josh Schumacher delivers a pitch during the seventh inning of the Raiders’ 15-2 non-league baseball win at George Washington on May 2. With games stacking up because of weather and pitch limits in effect, Aurora baseball coaches need every viable arm to perform as they push for the playoffs. (Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

Josh Schumacher put up video game offensive numbers May 2 in the Rangeview’s baseball team decisive win at George Washington, but his efficient seventh inning appearance on the mound may eventually loom more significant.

The senior shortstop homered twice and drove in seven runs to help build a lead he would protect with one inning of work on the mound in the Raiders’ 15-2 win.

The latest round of weather delays has crammed even more games into the final week-plus or the regular season for Rangeview and Aurora’s other baseball teams, who need to conserve every pitch they can for the stretch run, with this season’s newly-instituted pitch limits further clouding the issue.

Thus, Schumacher’s 11-pitch, 3-strikeout appearance made Raiders coach Brian Gausman smile.

Senior right-hander Cade Crader leads Grandview with five wins this season and figures to make a number of key starts for the Wolves, who play five straight games between May 3-7 and hope to win the Centennial League championship. (Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)
Senior right-hander Cade Crader leads Grandview with five wins this season and figures to make a number of key starts for the Wolves, who play five straight games between May 3-7 and hope to win the Centennial League championship. (Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

“It’s not so much about conserving pitchers, but about conserving pitches at this point with way things have backed up,” said Gausman, whose team had four games to play in five days.

“We were able to use Josh instead of putting Gonzalo (Luevano) out there for the last half of the inning and that might have burned 10 or 20 more pitches for him, which could make a big difference in his rest.”

Schumacher — who Gausman planned to used as a closer, but hasn’t needed yet — gladly came on and finished off a game in which Rangeview got strong efforts from senior starter Thomas Rutherford (4 innings) and Luevano (2 innings), a junior.

“It was my first time pitching in awhile and it felt pretty good,” said Schumacher, who pitched just 4 1/3 innings last season, but could surpass that this season.

“G and Thomas had a great game and it’s good to help out so we’ll be able to use them for the next few games.”

Rutherford, Luevano (4-1 with 2.74 ERA), Isaiah Carrillo and Devan Gibbs give the Raiders a rotation Gausman believes can stack up favorably against almost any team from top to bottom.

Relief performances from Schumacher and fellow senior Anthony Gustin could be vital in keeping those main arms fresh.
Strategies have changed in a lot of ways because of the weather and pitch counts.

While coaches always preach patience at the plate, it is especially important in the current climate, where making an opposing pitcher labor for even one inning could have long-reaching effects.

Cherokee Trail junior left-hander Conner Nantkes has been lights out this season — 4-1 record with a 2.31 ERA, including a complete game win over Centennial League leading Mullen on May 3 — but Grandview took advantage of a rare rough inning to crack open a close game on April 26.

The Wolves left the bats on their shoulders and worked five bases on balls in five-run fourth inning that propelled them on their way to a key 13-10 league victory.

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Cherokee Trail junior left-hander Conner Nantkes has been lights out this season, but Grandview took advantage of one uncharacteristic bout of wildness to hand him his first loss on April 26. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

Nantkes looked in good control for the first three innings, but had to throw 30 pitches in the frame and eventually had to come out so he wouldn’t be burned for the rest of the week.

“Conner is really good and he was coming off three days rest,” Grandview coach Scott Henry said. “With all these games bunched up, being patient is something you have to do. Our kids were good at that today and it’s something we’ll have to keep doing.”

Patience can work against teams that lack pitching depth, but Aurora has several teams that has the arms to survive a few struggles with control.

While Gausman feels good about his stockpile arms, so does Henry, Cherokee Trail’s Allan Dyer and Regis Jesuit’s Matt Darr.

Grandview (12-3, 10-1) has three front-line starters in seniors Cade Crader, Grant Schroeder and Nick Morris, who have a combined record of 9-2 with five complete games and all carry sub-2.70 ERAs.

Additionally, the Wolves have three different players with at least one save (Tyler Smith, Thomas Knowlton and Dylan Bowers) and senior Zach Sundine — who has been scorching hot with the bat — has picked up two wins in just eight innings.

“We are fortunate, I know that,” Henry said.

Cherokee Trail (10-4, 9-2) sits just a game behind Mullen and Grandview in the Centennial League standings — with another game against the Mustangs upcoming — with a dangerous batting order supplimenting an outstanding array of arms.

Nantkes (4-1, 2.31 ERA) and Metro State-bound senior Jerome Bohannon (3-0, 1.91 ERA) give the Cougars two top-end left-handers that very few other teams can match and two have soaked up nearly 53 innings combined, which has helped keep the bullpen fresh.

Regis Jesuit vs. Fairview Baseball, 4.4.16 (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)
Regis Jesuit senior Bo Weiss has been an innings-eater this season, as he has logged 33 2/3 innings and won five games for the Raiders thus far. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

Dyer has 10 pitchers who have logged two or more innings so far this season and know how to compete in any situation.

Before the weather became a major factor, Darr believes his pitching depth would be an advantage with the advent of the pitch counts this season and that has appeared to be the case.

Senior right-hander Bo Weiss had one hiccup this season against Fairview (11 earned runs in 3 2/3 innings), but otherwise the North Carolina signee has been spectacular as he’s given up two or fewer earned runs in each of his other six starts and has fanned 46 hitters in 33 2/3 innings.

Clemson-bound Travis Marr (4-1, 3.17 ERA) has been outstanding and junior Caleb Sloan hasn’t made many starts yet, but has proven effective.