April 3, 2008
The depth of a pitching staff often determines the success of a team.
The Lipscomb Bisons head into every three-game Atlantic Sun series with a trio of strong starters _ sophomore left-hander Rex Brothers, junior right-hander Brandon McClurg and senior left-hander Michael Dunn.
This Friday, Saturday and Sunday they are on the road at Stetson in DeLand, Fla.
McClurg, who was a reliever last season, has made seven appearances and started three games. He has a 4-0 record and a 1.59 earned run average, second best in the Atlantic Sun.
He pitched the first no-hitter for the Bisons in the NCAA era, stopping Kennesaw State 4-0, March 29. He has twice been named Atlantic Sun Pitcher of the Week and has also been named a "Louisville Slugger" National Player of the Week by Collegiate Baseball.
One of the reasons he was switched from the bullpen to the starting rotation was his repertoire of pitches.
"Most relief pitchers get by with two pitches," said Bisons pitching coach Lantz Wheeler. "McClurg has four pitches he can throw for strikes at any time. We knew we could get a lot more innings out of him. And he is throwing a lot for us."
McClurg can choose from a two-seam fastball, a slider, changeup or curve ball.
"I knew he was pretty good, but I don't think we could have ever guessed he was going to come out and throw like he has for us," Wheeler said. "Every time he goes out you know you are going to have a great chance to win.
"He is going to get ahead. He is going to attack hitters. He is going to throw a lot of strikes. Once McClurg gets ahead it makes it tough for the batter."
Brothers, a 6-footer, are the tallest of the three. McClurg is 5-10 and Dunn is listed as 5-9.
McClurg makes up for his lack of size with an uncanny ability to add motion to his pitches. Wheeler said that many of his pitches move like a whiffle ball.
"What separates him is his movement," Wheeler said. "Three of his pitches come out of the same slot so it looks like it is the same pitch. It is hard to recognize what he is throwing."
Brothers, 2-3 with a 6.08 ERA, was named as Atlantic Sun Preseason Pitcher of the Year by the conference coaches and sports information directors as well as Collegiate Baseball. He has made seven appearances, six as a starter. He has started slower than he would have liked, but has shown steady improvement.
"It's a matter of time for Rex," Wheeler said. "He is pressing too much. All of the spotlight has been on him. He is just trying to do too much. Once he let's the game start coming to him and starts throwing to his strengths he is going to be fine.
"It has been more mental than anything. Once he realizes he doesn't have to throw every pitch at 93 of 94 miles per hour he will be fine."
Brothers is also not one-pitch wonder. In addition to his fastball he also has a slider that he can throw at two different speeds and a changeup.
"He has just added a two-seam fastball that is right there with McClurg's as far as movement," Wheeler said. "He is a younger guy. He is still in the learning process. He is such a competitor that every time a hitter steps in the box he is going to come at them as hard as he can\.
"With a kid with as much talent as he has it is only a matter of time. He has to trust his stuff. If he locates those four pitches there isn't much that a batter can do especially with as much deception as he has with his arm action."
Dunn, a transfer from Austin Peay, has settled into the third slot with a 2-1 record and 4.22 ERA. He has made six appearances. His last was a complete game 7-0 blanking of Kennesaw State Sunday afternoon.
"He is a competitor," Wheeler said. "He gets after it. His mental approach is probably second to none as far as pitchers that I have coached as to how he prepares himself.
"On every pitch he is so visual with his plan of attack and what he is trying to do with each hitter. We are going to get seven or eight innings out of him every game. He is a veteran."
Wheeler expected Dunn to be an instant contributor to the team.
"He attacks it every day like it his last game or his last pitch," Wheeler said. "That is why he has been so successful."