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Chico State baseball pushed by pitchers

Nicholas Woodard

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Luke Barker closed out the inning pitching strong during Sundays game against the Cal State East Bay Pioneers. Photo credit: Grant Mahan

Here’s a number: 1.99. That’s the Chico State baseball team’s ERA,
best in the league.

Here’s another number: 46. That’s the number of pitches it
took Brad Lohse to throw a seven-inning complete game against Cal State
Stanislaus.

It’s anyone’s guess as to which number is more impressive, but here’s what is known: the Chico State pitching staff is dominant and it’s being led by new arms in the rotation and a new role for an old Wildcat.

Marcos Lara, a senior transfer student from Texas Southern University, said the transition to Chico State wasn’t hard, because he had played teams like Cal Poly and Cal State Dominguez Hills before.

His numbers show his comfort. Lara has notched 47 innings this year, going 6-1 with a 1.90 ERA. The numbers are nice, but Lara is here to help Chico State win, he said.

“I’m just trying to help this team compete,” Lara said. “We’re going for the West Region first, then the World Series.”

Any other year, Lara’s performances would make him the standout newcomer for Chico State.

But then there’s Brad Lohse.

The sophomore from Shasta College is Chico State’s career leader in shutouts, with four. He’s had six starts. Lohse has been named CCAA player of the week twice, boasts an ERA of 0.42 and has twice as many complete games as anyone else in the league.

He wasn’t even supposed to start this year.

Lohse said he got his chance in the rotation after Ryan O’Shea went down with an injury. Evidently O’Shea was one of the pitchers, along with Nick Baker, that Lohse studied in fall scrimmages.

Getting batters out was easy for both pitchers and Lohse wanted to know why, he said. The veterans threw strikes, had movement on their pitches and had good location. Lohse watched, and it definitely paid off.

Perhaps the most impressive shutout was the 46-pitch gem against the Warriors. After four innings, he had thrown 31 pitches. He was even better for the last three, throwing five pitches in each frame.

“That was kind of surreal, but it was fun,” Lohse said. “They just hit the ball to our guys and we made plays.”

In the event that Lohse doesn’t go the distance, the go-to guy out of the pen is Luke Barker. The junior right-hander is not a new face, but his role on the staff is.

Barker came into the year as a proven starter, but with all the pitching talent, head coach Dave Taylor moved Barker to the bullpen. From there, he quickly took over as a closer, leading the league with 10 saves so far this season. Barker has also thrown 19 straight scoreless innings.

Coming out of the bullpen required a different mindset for Barker because of the high intensity and high adrenaline situations he comes into, he said. But he’s embraced it.

“With closing, it’s me against you,” Barker said. “We have one chance to see who’s going to win and I have to get you out.”

The Wildcats are 26-7 overall and 18-6 in the CCAA, and the pitching staff has been a key part of this success. Barker said the sky’s the limit with this year’s combination of arms and gloves.

This is Barker’s third Chico State staff, and the reason for this continued pitching success is that everyone buys into Taylor’s philosophy, he said.

“It’s a culture we have, and it comes from Coach Taylor,” Barker said. “We pride ourselves on pitching. Regardless of who the names are, we have same jersey every year and that means we’re going to pitch. Whoever is the closer this year or starter another year, it’s about getting the job done on the mound.”

Nick Woodard can be reached at nw[email protected] or @nwoodard25 on Twitter.

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Chico State baseball pushed by pitchers