Uneven performances have marked the beginning of the season for the Falcons as we approach the halfway mark of the season. The pitching staff started the season with some outstanding work on the mound, allowing only 26 earned runs in the first 9 games. Meanwhile, the hitters were struggling to make contact, stumbling to a .171 batting average through those first nine games.
Since that time, the offensive production has returned to normal, but the pitching has been suspect, a problem that was compounded by an injury to staff ace Paul Skenes. The Falcon staff never announced the nature of the injury to Skenes, but the Fresno State announcers revealed in this week’s live stream that the problem was in his back. After a missed start he returned to the lineup as a pitcher, but was unavailable as a hitter for another two weeks. After his return to the lineup full time, the Falcons have won 4 of 5 games.
The regular lineup now features 5 sophomores. Skenes of course headlines the group, but two other sophomores are having big breakout seasons, Jay Thomason and Sam Kulasingam. Third baseman Thomason is the hottest hitter in the conference right now, connecting for 10 homeruns and 17 RBIs in his last 11 games, while raising his batting average to a team leading .347.
First baseman Kulasingam has been a consistent performer throughout the year, hitting .336 and leading the team in on base percentage at .423.
Sophomore Aerik Joe has started every game at shortstop, combining with Junior Trayden Tamiya for 16 double plays while hitting .277.
Sophomore right fielder Jake Greiving is batting .300 with 3 home runs and 16 RBIs.
The two seniors in the lineup are Gabe Garcia and Braydon Altorfer. Both are off to a slow start to the season, although Garcia has shown signs of life the last few weeks, raising his average to .295. Altorfer was a second team All MW selection last year, and one would expect for him to break out at some point.
Four pitchers have earned solid roles on the staff. Paul Skenes headlines as the top starting pitcher. Early in the season, he had some problems in the fourth inning, perhaps getting use to the starting role, but his last two games have featured 5 and 6 scoreless innings.
Lefthander Seungmin Shim has pitched well as the second starting pitcher. He presents a good contrast in pitching behind Skenes as a lefthander control pitcher. With a respectable WHIP of 1.41, he keeps the Falcons in games in which he pitches.
Senior Zach Argo fills the roll of middle reliever nicely. He’s been able to hold a lead pretty consistently and hand the ball to closer Doyle Gehring for the save. Gehring leads the Falcons with a 2.49 ERA and has 6 saves.
The third starting position is unsettled. Rob Martin started out well in that position, but in the last few games has had control issues and was relegated to the bullpen. Ryan Stohr, Kyle Moats, and freshman Sawyer Hawks have been given chances, but have been inconsistent.
Currently, the Falcons stand in sixth place in the Mountain West with a 4-7 conference record. UNLV is off to a great conference start with an 11-1 record including a sweep of the Falcons. Eighteen games remain in conference for the Falcons, including three against UNLV. With Skenes back in the lineup and a little more consistency, the Falcons should be able to close the gap with the Rebels and make a good run during the conference tournament.