Young pitching anchors baseball team through rough season
Steffen Torgersen upped his hitting streak to seven games on Sunday against Harvard.
A typical first-year in many college sports gets minimal playing time as he or she adjusts to the difficulty of collegiate athletics. However, that hasn’t been the case this season for the Dartmouth baseball team.
So far, every healthy first-year has seen consistent playing time, with a select few receiving high honors for their performances. Justin Murray ’22, Nathan Skinner ’22 and Trystan Sarcone ’22 have all received the Ivy League Rookie of the Week award this season, with Murray hauling in the award last weekend and Sarcone and Skinner winning it consecutively in the first two weeks of the season.
Since only eight players in the conference have received the honor this season, it is notable that three of them have been Dartmouth players. It speaks to the remarkable success that the class has already achieved in its inaugural season in Dartmouth green.
“We’ve been thrown into the fire this year, but I think as a class we’re doing really well,” Murray said. “Everyone’s contributing, and everyone is getting valuable experience that not a lot of other teams are getting.”
Murray received the honor after giving up just two runs in seven innings against Brown University on April 14, which was critical because the win gave Dartmouth the series victory in the decisive third game.
“To be able to secure the series win was the biggest thing,” Murray said. “[Jonah Jenkins ’21] and [Max Hunter ’21] came in relief and finished it off. It was good to take the series and give us some positive momentum going forward.”
Murray’s gem against Brown was not an anomaly either. He gave up just one run in six innings against Columbia University two weeks prior and only one in 6.1 innings against the University of South Florida, a strong program, during the team’s spring break trip. Impressively, his 22 strikeouts this rookie season leads all Big Green pitchers.
The other first-year starting pitcher is Skinner, who won the Ivy League Rookie of the Year award weeks ago after a stellar 4.1-inning start against Farleigh Dickinson University in which he gave up just one run in a 6-1 win. In that outing on March 2, he struck out five and gave up just two hits.
“The team played really well defensively behind me that day,” Skinner said. “That made it a lot easier to pitch because I knew I could trust them behind me.”
In addition to that performance, Skinner gave up three runs in a great 6.1-inning performance against South Florida and tossed five two-run innings against Princeton University. He also entered in an unfamiliar, unexpected relief appearance during the team’s 21-inning game against the University of Pennsylvania, pitching two clean innings before imploding for eight runs in the final frame.
While he has generally performed well this season, there is reason to believe that his future could be even brighter.
“To be honest, I don’t think I’ve thrown my best this season,” Skinner said. “But I’m trying to get better every day.”
In addition to the two starters, Sarcone won the award for his brilliant relief appearance in the first week. He pitched three scoreless innings against the University of Texas at San Antonio in his collegiate debut, striking out four.
“That weekend, I was the last one to go in on the team, so I knew my turn was coming,” Sarcone said. “I just wanted to get out there and throw up zeroes to get us back in the game. I felt locked in and confident in my teammates behind me.”
Sarcone said he knew he performed well, but he had no expectation of being honored for his outing.
“I didn’t even know [Ivy League Rookie of the Week] was a thing until one of the older guys sent it to me,” Sarcone said.
Between Murray, Sarcone and Skinner, the first-years have shouldered a lot of the load on the mound this season. In addition to those three, the class consists of two more pitchers who have seen little to no action this year to due to injury. Cole Roland ’22 is recovering from Tommy John surgery while Chase Jeter ’22 is recovering from a shoulder injury.
Jeter started a game in the UTSA series, pitching two scoreless innings before giving up six runs in a difficult third inning. Roland has not seen any action this year, but he is making good progress in his recovery and will be ready to go for the 2020 campaign. With four freshman starters continually improving in addition to several returning workhorses like Hunter and Jenkins, runs are going to be at a premium for Ivy League opponents in the coming years.
Offensively, the first-years have shouldered less of the load as standouts Matt Feinstein ’19, Ubaldo Lopez ’21 and Steffen Torgersen ’19 have anchored a strong offensive attack. However, a handful of freshmen have also stepped up. Ben Rice ’22 and Kade Kretzschmar ’22 have started games at catcher and in the outfield, respectively, and both have seven RBIs on the season. Bryce Daniel ’22 has a solid .344 on-base percentage and two RBIs.
“Everyone who’s been able to play has shown really good things,” Murray said. “I’m really excited about our class and the potential we have to be very good. I really like how we’ve been able to step in and fill any roles we’ve needed to this year.”
Right now, the Big Green is focused on a strong finish to the season. The team is currently 5-8 in conference play and four games back from second-place Harvard. However, if the Big Green wins most or all of its remaining nine Ivy League games — all of which are at home — it has a chance to secure a bid to the Ivy League championship as one of the top two teams in the conference.
While the focus is still on the 2019 season, it is hard for the freshmen not to get excited about the bright future they have with the program.
“They’re awesome,” Sarcone said of his first-year teammates. “I think we’re going to be really strong in the coming years. They’re so mature for their age as baseball players. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”