Colton Harlow

Senior left-handed pitcher Colton Harlow throws a pitch in a matchup against Albany.

After a disappointing 2017 season in which JMU baseball pitching staff accrued a 5.57 ERA (third worst in the CAA), the Dukes’ arms have bounced back early in 2018 with a team ERA of 2.59 (second in the CAA). While JMU’s hitters have struggled to a team batting average of .241, the JMU pitchers have kept the team afloat by only allowing more than three runs in just three of their eight games.

“When you have good pitching, it’ll keep you in ballgames,” head coach Marlin Ikenberry said. “Our pitching has been solid, and that’s what’s been so exciting for us. Our guys are competing and getting better every day.”

Senior southpaw Colton Harlow has enjoyed a hot start to the 2018 season after an up-and-down year.  In Harlow’s two starts this season, he’s pitched 12 innings, held opposing batters to a .209 batting average and earned a 1-0 record. He hopes to continue his initial success and establish himself as an ace and leader the team can rely on.

Outside of Harlow, only one other JMU pitcher has made more than one start and that’s junior right-handed pitcher Dan Goggin. With a 1.64 ERA and a 2-0 record, Goggin has already made a positive impact on the Dukes’ staff after transferring from Cumberland Community College this year. Opposing batters are hitting a measly .175 with only two extra-base hits against him. It’s been an adjustment to go from community college to Division-I athletics, but Goggin has already found himself in a rhythm and hopes to continue adjusting throughout the season.

“The hitters are better for one,” Goggin said. “But you know it’s the same thing everywhere. You go to the park, get your work in, play your game and things will work out.”

Of course Harlow and Goggin aren’t the only ones getting it done on the pitching staff.

Players such as sophomore RHP Kevin Kelly and freshman RHP Nick Stewart, who was named CAA Rookie of the Week on Tuesday, have also made contributions early. Kelly has collected two saves and struck out 11 in seven innings pitched. Making his first career start against the University of Albany, Stewart went five strong innings, striking out five batters and only giving up one run on two hits. The Dukes’ depth should help keep their arms fresh down the road which they didn’t have last season.

“We definitely feed off each other,” Harlow said. “It’s really reassuring to know that someone has your back if you’re struggling. Coming out of the game and handing the ball off to someone you trust is always a good feeling.”

It may be early, but if JMU’s pitching staff can continue this early season success, this team has a good chance at jumping back into the race for the CAA title. The Dukes’ bats were projected to be one of their strengths this year and should start to come around once the players get more at-bats. JMU has already hit eight home runs this year ­­first in the CAA which means once they start getting on base more consistently, the runs should come. Until that time comes, however, this pitching staff will look to keep cruising — and it has the staff to do it.  

Contact Connor McCarthy at mccartcs@dukes.jmu.edu. For more baseball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter at @TheBreezeSports.