The Swift Current 57’s pursuit of a second straight Western Major Baseball League title has been led by the pitching staff all season, a trend that will need to continue down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs.
The 57’s staff easily led the 10-team league with a 3.43 earned run average, a 1.34 WHIP, and a .248 opponents batting average coming out of the weekend.
“The biggest thing, early on and towards the middle of the season, was we’ve been eliminating free bases, the walks, and hit by pitches. It has been just pounding the zone and getting ahead in the count and trying to get contact early,” pointed out coach Joe Carnahan.
A quick glimpse at the WMBL pitching statistics would appear to back up Carnahan’s observations. They have walked the fewest batters in the league with only 133 in 41 games. They also had the fewest hit by pitches with only 23 and led the league with only 17 wild pitches as well.
“Well a lot of our guys are strike throwers,” added starter Dustin Wells. “They have a lot of good pitches, whether it is a curveball, a slider, change-up, or a splitter. We are all equipped with a large arsenal and we are able to locate at least three pitches or more for strikes in any count. That really helps us get outs and keep hitters off balance and lets us do our job.”
“I think a lot of us just want to compete when we go out there,” added reliever Sean Chandler. “Everyone loves their role. No one is envious or jealous of anyone on the team. They just know their role and once they get out there they do a good job and just compete.”
Carnahan said it was no easy task assembling the league’s top pitching staff this season.
“It was little bit challenging. We had a couple guys go in the draft. A couple guys ended up getting jobs and a couple guys went Independent [League] and a couple other issues that happened late. So we had added a couple guys throughout the season and late.”
Infielder Keil Krumwiede has taken on the role of closer to help solidify the bullpen.
“We got a little bit of a surprise with Keil too. He didn’t pitch that much at school this year and threw a bullpen up here. He has been really good for us and developed into our closer and that was a big boost to our club,” explained Carnahan.
Wells was a late addition to the team, but the lefty is now 4-0 with only three earned runs allowed over 27 innings for a miniscule 1.00 ERA.
“I have just been sticking with my usual game plan that I have grown up with. I am not the hardest thrower and I know I can’t blow it by guys, so I like to mix and match fastball inside and fastball outside, change-up, change-up, slider, and just get guys off balance and out in front.”
The Glendale, AZ native recently completed his senior season at George Fox University, where he was coached by Marty Hunter, whose son, Taylor played in Swift Current when the Indians won the 2010 WMBL championship.
“It is a good staff, a lot of good people here. We like to just give each other tips and stuff, whether it is hip drive, or working with off-speed, just needing to get out in front with it more, controlling your front side, making sure things don’t fly open too much,” said Wells. “We like to keep each other accountable for that stuff. It’s a great group.”
Reliever Sean Chandler had a 1.12 ERA coming out of the weekend. He has only allowed seven hits in 16 innings. His only downfall has been walks with 20 on the season.
“I have had some ups and downs with walks. But I think my success comes from a routine that I have and try and do throughout the day. I just try and stay consistent. When I get out there I try and relax and breathe a lot just to keep my body under control and flow like water I guess.”
The 6’5’’ righty attack hitters out of the bullpen with a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, and a slider, while mixing in the odd change-up against left-handed hitters.
“You just have got to be ready everyday. I try and lock it in within the fifth or sixth inning if I think I am going to pitch that day. I just go through the hitters, see what they’re doing, what’s going on with them, where are they missing. Then I just compete, that’s all I do. I just focus up and when my name gets called I give my best.”
The Bellevue, NE product suited up for the University of Nebraska this past season. He went to high school with shortstop Grant Van Scoy. Chandler initially had no plans of playing summer baseball but eventually talked to his former teammate and ended up in Swift Current.
The league’s top pitching staff has been handled by three different catchers this season. Veteran Bodie Cooper split time behind the plate with Mason Brown, and Florida’s John Baiada has recently joined the club and has seen time behind the plate.
“They have done an awesome job, all three of them,” said Carnahan. “With Bodie and Johny both being seniors and then Mason, he has been a three-year starter in college catching, all three of them have experience calling games at their schools. A lot of times now coaches call a lot of the pitches and catchers don’t have the opportunity to call their own games. We got fortunate with these three guys that their coaches are trusting in them to let them call their own game and they do a good job calling the game up here as well.”
“It has been good so far,” explained Wells. “There have not been a whole lot of miscommunications. It has been a good group. They are easy to work with and understand the game very well. They just want to help us get outs and do our job, which is throwing strikes.”
“It’s honestly a bit challenging,” said Chandler. “I’ve only thrown to Bodie and Mason. Mase just likes to compete with fastballs. Bodie likes to mix it around a little bit and work the hitters. It’s great though, nothing wrong with keeping you on your toes.”
The 57’s pitching staff will be tested this week as they conclude the WMBL regular season with seven games over seven days, including four games against the Regina Red Sox, who are the highest scoring team in the league.
“You gotta play each game a day at a time. Obviously the goal is to win it. I am not going home until we’re done. My job right now is here and I am here to win it and that’s all I really got to say about that,” said Chandler.
“Obviously we would like to win a championship. That’s the main goal, that’s what we are striving to do,” added Wells.
Carnahan was hoping the pitching staff could help the team break out of a three-game losing streak.
“We have a lot of depth. We still have a lot of work to do. The last week here we have had a little bit of trouble just putting teams away within innings. We’ve had quite a few runs scored on us with two outs. But throughout the season we have been pretty good until that point. Depth-wise we are pretty good. We just have to get back to making quality pitches and getting ahead in counts.”
The 57’s host the Regina Red Sox tonight at 7:05 p.m. at Mitchell Field.