When you have the talent of senior Templeton pitcher Mac Lardner, there is a sea of noise to swim through.
“There are past coaches, college coaches, current coaches, his pitching coach,” Templeton coach Pete Kotheimer said. “I get overzealous. He gets a lot of voices in his head.”
Early on in the season, not all of those voices were on the same page, Kotheimer said, and the big left-hander’s performance suffered.
“There was pressure on him for the last year or two to build up his velocity, so that threw him out a little bit, but now there is a realization that he is a pitcher,” Kotheimer said.
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Even though Lardner is big — about 6-foot-4, 210 pounds — he is more Dallas Keuchel than Stephen Strasburg. In other words, precision not power.
“In the beginning of the season, I was trying to do too much,” said Lardner, a Gonzaga commit. “I was just trying to strike everybody out. Right now, I just kind of took a step back and slowed everything down. Just trying to pitch my style and not be anybody else.”
Tuesday on the road against Nipomo (6-16, 4-10 Los Padres) was a perfect example of the pitcher Lardner wants to be. He worked the zone up and down, inside and out, gave up one hit and struck out nine batters in a 7-0 win. The shutout moved Lardner’s ERA to 1.43, his strikeout total to 54 and his record to 4-2.
“I was kind of cruising,” Lardner said of his outing against Nipomo. “I was getting everything over. Fastball was there. Just kind of had them guessing all game.”
The win ended Templeton’s four-game losing streak and moved the Eagles to an even .500 (10-10, 7-7 Los Padres) on the season. Templeton is locked in a tight race with Lompoc (8-6) and Santa Maria (7-7) for the fourth-and-final spot in the playoffs.
“We didn’t get as many as we would have liked to during the more difficult stretch. We have eliminated our margin for error,” Kotheimer said “We can’t come out and play a game where we are not completely focused or where we are making mistakes like we are young. We now have to be the good team that we are every time we come out.”
That means giving Lardner and Templeton’s second starter, Brodan Willison, plenty of run support.
It was two of the Eagles’ top hitters that kept things rolling against Nipomo. Leadoff batter Shane Wyatt pushed his batting average to .463 with a 2-for-4 performance, and catcher Jarred Briltz was 2 for 4 with two RBI and is now hitting .392.
The Eagles look to be on the same page, and the noise is softer and in-tune now, but there are still tests ahead. After another game against Nipomo on Friday, Templeton will play two games against Lompoc next week.
“We need to learn from the past but prepare for each game like it is the biggest game of our season so far, because it really is,” Lardner said. “Every game matters from here on out. It is going to be a tight one.”