Griffons have strength in starting pitching

By Kyle Inman

April 24, 2012

The starting pitching duo of Brandon Simmons and Nik Jurado has been the most consistent force behind the Griffons' success this season. “They have been our two work horses,” Coach Buzz Verduzco said. “Having them on the mound you just kind of know you will get a solid outing, you are always going to be in the game.” Simmons has a record of 9-2 on the season with a 1.51 earned run average and 53 strikeouts. He was an honorable mention All-MIAA pitcher for the last two seasons for Western and is just a junior. “I have really grown to like my fastball this year,” Simmons said. “I got it up to about 88 miles per hour, and I've been working hard on getting a good slider to go with it.” Simmons credits the solid defense behind him for allowing him to focus solely on his pitches and location without having to worry about errors being made. “Brandon is our number one guy, and he sets the tone for the weekend,” Jurado said. “We basically are the same pitchers with the same kind of stuff. He goes out there and shoves and it gives me confidence that I can do the same thing. I think he sets the tone for the whole pitching staff.” Jurado boasts a unblemished 7-0 record with a 1.96 earned run average and has also struck out 53 batters on the season. He was an honorable mention All-MIAA pitcher last season and has improved his numbers this year. “I don't really think I have changed anything from last year, I'm just maybe a little more consistent with every single pitch,” Jurado said. What makes the Griffons' two lead pitchers success this season even more impressive is that they continued to give Western an opportunity to win early in the season when they weren't getting much run support from the hitters. “They always gave us a chance to really win and kept us in it,” Verduzco said. “The next thing you know we get a late-inning base hit and a late-inning run and win. That's how a lot of those victories at home happened.” The tide has turned and now the hitters are producing runs at a much higher rate than they were during the struggles, but the approach is still the same from the pitching staff. “We knew the bats were going to come around sooner or later,” Jurado said. “We just have a goal to keep every game at five runs or less. Do that and our offense will eventually come around like it has been. They have been amazing the last couple of weeks.” The Griffons feel good about their post-season chances with the pair of dominant pitchers on the mound, a luxury that not many teams have. “Having Nik and Brandon is like having two aces going every week,” catcher Tony Loeffler said. “Most teams only have one top guy and we have two of them, so every time they step on the mound we have a really good chance at winning the game.” Verduzco says that their success hasn't necessarily come from having overpowering pitches, but from buying into the Western system and doing the little things right. “Number one, they are competitors and they understand what we do here as a staff and buy into our philosophies,” Verduzco said. “They are exceptional at holding runners and maybe that is what sets them apart from the rest of the staff.”