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Pitt baseball hurler Matt Wotherspoon up and down in role as staff ace

Photo used with the permission of University of Pittsburgh athletics department (www.pittsburghpanthers.com)

The fact that the baseball team is struggling a bit is well known. The team hasn't been horrible, but at 5-7, things haven't started as well as they did last season when the Panthers won 42 games.

There have been lots of reasons for that - the offense (we'll have more on that later) is one of them. But the pitching hasn't been as good as well with the losses of last year's ace Ethan Mildren and starting catcher Elvin Soto. Part of that has been on the staff's inability to find a dominant third starter, but part of it has also been current No. 1 Matt Wotherspoon.

Wotherspoon was part of last year's dominant rotation and was a big reason for their success. He was named to the All Big East Second Team, was 9-3 with a 3.70 ERA, and led the team in strikeouts with 85 in 107 innings. This year, though, has been a different story.

The senior is 2-2 in his four starts and while his strikeout/inning ratio is practically the same as last year (.78 in 2014 to .79 in 2013), his ERA has ballooned to 6.14. Opposing batters are hitting a healthy .337 against him and Wotherspoon has given up 33 hits in lasting only 22 innings. Overall, there's been good and there's been bad.

It's not fair to look only at his overall numbers. He also looked in his opening win against Coastal Carolina, giving up only one earned run in 5 1/3 innings, and was decent against Ohio State, giving up three earned runs in seven mostly strong innings. Still, he was unsuccessful in outings against Butler and, this past weekend, North Carolina.

It's early and he has plenty of time to turn things around. Wotherspoon is a good pitcher as evidenced by his season last year and the fact that he was drafted in the 20th round of the MLB Draft last year. Further, Wotherspoon is hardly the sole reason the team is off to a slower start. But the Panthers are going to need more from him to stay competitive this year in the difficult ACC.

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