Panthers pitching stellar in series win


Mackenzie Freund

Garrison Stenger, a senior pitcher, gets ready to throw the ball to the batter during the game against Illinois College Wednesday.

Bob Reynolds, Sports Editor

Coming into the weekend series against Belmont, the Eastern baseball teams’ pitching staff had a team earned run average of over eight in conference play.

The ERA was lowered this weekend with the help of freshman Andy Fisher, junior Jake Johansmeier and red-shirt junior Matt Wivinis, who allowed seven earned runs in 19 innings pitched.

Eastern was able to win a conference series for the first time this season after taking 2-of-3 from Belmont over the weekend.

Fisher got the start in game one and pitched five innings and allowed three runs on nine hits.

Fisher has come out of the bullpen for most of the season and said he had a lot more confidence in his first start since early March.

“I was definitely a lot more confident in myself this start, since I had found my stuff those weeks in the bullpen,” he said. “There were still a lot of nerves there, as any freshman would experience on a Friday night.”

After having an ERA of over 15 early in the season, Fisher has lowered it to 7.36 in the past few weeks.

He said he has considered himself lucky over the past month or two.

“I’ve found ways to relax myself before I pitch, and now I’m just throwing strikes and letting my defense make plays,” They have been phenomenal the past few games, so all the credit goes to them.”

Johansmeier got the start in game two and struck out three batters. He also allowed two runs, one earned, in seven innings pitched.

The Panthers won the game 8-2, and Johansmeier said his team getting out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning helped immensely.

“I just hit a lot of my spots and mixed pitches and let them put the ball in play,” he said. “The wind was blowing in so if I got behind, I knew I could go right at them and they’d get themselves out. The defense was amazing. Joe (Duncan) was out there catching everything, and Marshawn made some nice plays that kept us in the lead.”

Wivinis, the game three starter, pitched seven innings and allowed three runs on nine hits. He also was credited with a save in Friday’s game.

He also said the defense was a big part of his confidence level Sunday.

“They were making plays all day,” he said.

The bullpen was stellar as well for the Panthers over the weekend.

Sophomore Chase Thurston pitched 3 1/3 innings in two games and allowed just one hit and one walk.

Freshman Luke Dietz threw 2 2/3 innings and allowed four runs, one earned, on two hits and two walks.

With the pitching performances over the weekend, Johansmeier is happy to see the staff start to come together.

“Matt has been strong,” he said. “’Fish’ has been outstanding his past outings, and our bullpen guys are doing great. Chase is doing really well, and Dietz got his feet wet and will be a big part of our bullpen in games to come.”

Freshman designated hitter Bobby Wenthe was another big reason the Panthers were able to be successful over the weekend.

Wenthe went 5-for-11 with three home runs and a double. He hit a home run in each of the three games the Panthers played.

Johansmeier said you have to be happy for Wenthe with the way he is swinging the bat as of late.

“He’s swinging a hot bat right now,” he said. “I’m impressed with his at-bats. He’s really not forcing anything, he struggled at the beginning and settled down and started to work the counts. He’s getting his pitch to hit, and he’s really making them pay for it.”

The Panthers will travel up I-57 to Champaign to take on the University of Illinois at 6:05 p.m.


Bob Reynolds can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]