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Commentary: Pitching prowess trumps the long ball

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | APRIL 01, 2010 7:30 AM

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I enjoy watching pitchers repeatedly throw first-pitch strikes.

I savor watching pitchers repeatedly retire the side 1-2-3.

And I absolutely love watching pitchers repeatedly baffle an entire lineup of hitters.

Needless to say, I relish pitching battles, like the clash I witnessed through the first seven innings of Iowa’s 6-5 win over South Dakota State on Wednesday.

The two starting pitchers — Hawkeye senior lefty Zach Robertson and Jackrabbit junior right-hander Blake Treinen — allowed just 10 hits in 14 combined innings of work. Over two-thirds of the game was the polar opposite of what Tuesday night’s 32-hit game offered.

Unlike Tuesday, no home runs — let alone a single two-bagger — were hit on Wednesday. And I loved it.

Maybe I’m in the minority, but there’s nothing like watching a pitcher cut through an opposing order like a chain saw through an oak log.

That’s exactly what last night’s throwers did — especially Iowa’s Robertson. He outmatched every South Dakota State hitter digging in against him from the game’s first pitch.

The Jackrabbits produced just two runs against Robertson: one unearned following two Hawkeye errors in the top half of the first, and one earned scored by Eric Cain after he reached base via a free pass from Robertson.

And strikeouts? The Des Moines native hurled plenty — 10, including seven that left Jackrabbit hitters swinging at nothing but beautiful spring air.

Consider the way America’s pastime is played at the collegiate level, and you’ll see the game is designed against performances like Robertson’s.

Combine aluminum bats and shoddy defenses. Then add in that pitchers take longer than batters to develop their craft. College baseball is clearly a hitter’s game.

Younger pitchers are often immature and too caught up with objectives aside from getting the opposing hitter out.

Whether it’s getting distracted by a speedy runner, worrying too much about strikeouts, or just checking out the cutie sitting in the bleachers, college hurlers often struggle to throw strikes consistently.

Robertson dealt them in mass quantity on Wednesday, especially the first-pitch variety. Thus, he often found himself in pitcher’s counts, and it paid off.

But the rare at-bats in which Robertson was tagged with a hit stood out. With offense at a premium, good pitching makes a good piece of hitting more enjoyable as well.

Each and every base knock gains that added value. And when a team finds itself with two or three hits in single inning, well it’s pretty lucky.

And every single run that crosses the plate? Each one is that much more important.

Ask me to decide between a riveting pitcher’s duel and two teams trading hits all night (which is probably largely a product of poor pitching, anyway), and it’s an easy call.

Let me watch the baffled hitters toss their bats every time.


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