ISU softball hoping to improve pitching in 2016

Pitcher Brianna Weilbacher delivers the first pitch in the second game of a doubleheader against Texas Tech on May 2, 2015.

Sean Sears

The ISU softball team hasn’t been known for its pitching in the past five seasons, but it is attempting to change that in 2016. 

Iowa State’s 2015 pitching staff put up its best ERA since 2010 with a 4.81, which was the second worst in the Big 12. Normally, allowing upward of five runs per game isn’t a cause for pride, but it has been a rough half decade in the circle for the Cyclones.

From 2010 to 2015, the team averages a 5.65 ERA, with the team’s best ERA, a 3.86, coming in 2010. But the worst season came in 2012, when the Cyclones posted a 7.16 ERA.

However, there are still some alarming statistics from the past year that Iowa State is attempting to correct.

The Cyclones gave up the second most runs in the Big 12 last season, allowing 282 runners to cross the plate, with 241 of them earned. The pitching staff also walked more batters than anyone else in the conference last season with 257 free passes.

It is no surprise that along with all these other issues the Cyclones struggled to keep pitchers in games with only 16 complete games, another Big 12 low.

Assistant coach Brittany Weil-Miller works directly with the pitching staff, and she is looking to make major improvements from last season.

But with a pitching staff only returning one player, sophomore right-hander Brianna Weilbacher, it is not going to be easy to build off of last season. However, with an enticing group of freshmen and transfers, Miller feels confident in her new group.

“They had a lot of success on their summer or high school teams,” Miller said. “After watching them several times over the past few years, we knew they could bring our pitching staff to another level.” 

As for right-hander Mandi Moore and left-hander Kristine Kimberley, the two transfer students, Miller expects to plug the veteran pitchers right into her pitching staff. 

“We have two transfers that threw well on their past teams, and we knew they could bring some college experience and would be able to make an impact,” Miller said. 

Miller is having the girls focus on finishing games this season. That means getting ahead in counts by attacking batters, but also coming into each game with the right mentality.

She hopes that if her pitchers are staying in games longer, they are also pitching better. She also wants her pitching staff to use a variety of pitches to keep teams off balance.

Miller has added more pitching challenges during her pitchers’ workouts this season to emphasize hitting their spots and changing the speed and locations of their pitches.

With these challenges, it not only works on specific aspects of pitching but also gives the women a competitive drive that’s needed when pitching. And so far, her staff is buying in.

“It’s way easier on yourself and your team when you just get ahead in the count, so it’s a lot less stressful,” Moore said.

Both Moore and Weilbacher are going to be cores of the pitching staff this season, but head coach Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler believes her pitching staff is the team’s biggest improvement of the season.

“We have five people right now that could legitimately throw in a game based off of who we’re playing and what we are doing,” Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. “That’s a significant improvement.”