Pitching staff has been key to baseball team's strong start

Pitching staff has been key to baseball team's strong start

After 13 Southern Conference games, the Eastern Florida State College baseball team finds themselves leading the conference with nine wins.

The Titans have won each of the first four conference series this season and the pitching staff has been a big reason for the success. Eastern Florida State College comes into the weekend homestand against Miami Dade College third in the nation in strikeouts with 364 and is in the top 20 in earned run average at 3.07 as a team.

"The starters have just been super consistent, every time they go out there the guys are confident and give us a chance to win, they are getting deep into ball games and that allows the bullpen to stay rested and ready for when we do need them," Eastern Florida State College baseball coach Jason Arnold said. "They are really doing the job a coach really hopes they do and you don't have any letdown no matter whose turn it is. And now they are challenging each other. They feed off each other."

The trio of Carter Stewart, Pablo Barquero Jackson and Connor Brian are all in the top 20 in ERA in Region VIII and have gone at least five innings in 17 of their 24 starts this season.

Barquero is the sophomore of the group and the Costa Rica native comes into Friday night's start on a four-game winning streak and has a 2.49 ERA with 53 strikeouts in nine appearances this season. He has gone at least five innings in seven of his eight starts and allowed three earned runs or less in every one of his starts this season. 

"Honestly, I've never felt better," Barquero said on Thursday. "The hard work that this staff has been putting in is showing and everybody has just been really consistent."

Stewart, a freshman from Eau Gallie High, is fifth in Region VIII in ERA with a 1.61 ERA and leads the state in strikeouts with 77 on the season. Stewart is 2-1 in eight starts this season and has allowed three earned runs in his past five starts.

Brian has made seven starts for the Titans and is 3-1 with a 2.09 ERA with 45 strikeouts and the freshman from Coral Springs has allowed just two earned runs in his past three starts going at least five innings in all three starts. He is scheduled to take the ball Saturday afternoon in the final game of the weekend series with Miami Dade.

"We all feed off each other, the advantage of one is the advantage of everyone. We try to help each other after every start, at the end of the day it benefits the team," Barquero said. "That is what makes us good - the relationships between us, we have a really good connection. We win together and lose together as a team, nobody points figures. We know if we stay together, we can accomplish great things together."

When the starters do hand the ball to the bullpen, Andres Rodriguez leads a strong group with four saves which is tied for second in Region VIII and has allowed just one earned run in 17 2/3 innings this season.

"I am very pleased with the depth of the pitching staff and truthfully it comes back to the starters," Arnold said. "Those guys are out doing their jobs and keeping the bullpen fresh. I have been a part of a lot of teams that by midseason the bullpen is blown out, but we have managed to stay fresh and that should allow us to continue being successful." 

After dropping the first game of the series 6-2 on Wednesday, Eastern Florida State College will host Miami Dade at 6 p.m. on Friday and then again at 1 p.m. Saturday for the final game of the weekend series and admission to Bruce Bochy Field is free. 

"We are in a good spot. If you would have told me this is where we would be after 13 conference games, I would have taken it quickly and I think the expectations have now shifted a bit," Arnold said. "Now that we are out front we have to find a way to stay there. We won't sneak up on anybody now, they all know we are going to play pretty good baseball and p0itch well and compete. It is going to be tougher. It may appear that we are the team to beat but I am not sure if that is true, we are just hoping to win one game at a time and be there at the end with a chance."