Eastern loses 5 more as new pitchers settle in


File Photo

Jessica Wireman delivers a pitch to an Indiana State batter during Eastern’s 2-0 victory in April 2018 at Williams Field.

JJ Bullock, Sports Editor

The Eastern softball team lost all five of its games in the Tiger Invitational in Auburn, Alabama this weekend, extending its losing streak to eight games and dropping its season record to 3-11.

Eastern was shutout twice in the tournament, once by Auburn 6-0 and once by Troy 3-0. The shutouts were the second and third of Eastern’s season. Eastern’s other three losses came to Villanova 14-3, Troy 4-3 and North Dakota State 9-6.

The losses Eastern has sustained already are a stark difference from last season, in which Eastern began its season 12-3 through the first three tournaments rather than 3-11.

The most striking difference between last year’s 12-3 starting team and this season’s 3-11 squad would be the performance of the pitching staff.

Eastern has used four pitchers this season and have seen varying degrees of success as the Panthers now carry a staff ERA of 5.17, 8th in the Ohio Valley Conference. Last season Eastern had a staff ERA 3.01, carried by seniors Jessica Wireman and Michele Rogers.

Granted as Eastern head coach Kim Schuette said, early season ERAs are always high for pitchers because of the limited number of innings pitched.

But, without Rogers and Wireman this season, the Panthers have turned to a combination of four pitchers to fill the void; Valerie Thompson, McKenna Coffman, Jade Montgomery and Sydney Cammon.

Coffman is the only pitcher this season carrying an ERA under 6.00. Coffman has pitched 28.1 innings for the Panthers this season to the tune of a 2.22 ERA.

Coffman is in her junior season at Eastern but has only made four appearances for the Panthers. She missed almost all of last season with a knee injury.

“She (Coffman) is if I said eager, an understatement,” Eastern head coach Kim Schuette said. “She is ready to go, stronger than ever and has gotten more than a few starts already. She throws a real heavy drop ball that will induce hopefully a lot of ugly swings and mis-hit groundballs.”

Outside of Coffman, the rest of the pitching staff has not been able to fully fill the shoes that Rogers and Wireman left unfilled, but Schuette is excited to work with all four pitchers as the season progresses as a four-person “pitching staff,” rather than a two-person rotation Eastern used with Wireman and Rogers.

“We don’t have two players that are just going to alternate starts,” Schuette said. “And that makes it kind of interesting because of I have been lucky to have some go-to pitchers, but this is actually pretty fun having more pitchers who all do something different and who right now are more of a pitching staff, almost like a baseball mentality approach where you use more than one pitcher in one game which is a little bit different for Eastern softball.”

Left-hander Valerie Thompson has thrown 21 innings for the Panthers this season and has an ERA of 6.33, the second-lowest on the staff. But, Schuette says having a lefty like Thompson on the staff brings an invaluable asset to the team.

“It is just something that you don’t see that often in softball,” Schuette said. “The fact that she can take the ball and have it start on the outside of the plate and have it come in to a righty is something that softball players don’t see as often.”

The Panthers’ pitching staff is also welcoming two new-comers this season, Jade Montgomery, a transfer from Wabash Community College and freshman Sydney Cammon.

Montgomery leads Eastern with 31 innings pitched this season, but so far has not seen the ERA numbers a pitcher would like to have, sporting a 6.48 ERA.

“(Montgomery) is an excellent and very capable starter for us, and she is the haus that we want to go in a takeover batters,” Schuette said. “She is going to throw a combination of rise ball coupled with a curveball away from right-handed batters. She is tough and she’ll compete.”

Cammon has only appeared in 7.1 innings for Eastern this season, but her physical make-up has Schuette keeping an eye on her early.

“Syd is a former three-sport athlete who is about 6-foot-1 and throws it hard,” Schuette said. “We would love for Syd to come in and kind of be our closer and just come in and throw the ball hard.”

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]