The Thunder suffered two tough losses at Millikin in a three game series this weekend before picking up a 5-0 win off of a stellar pitching performance by sophomore Michael McCraith.
McCraith threw a complete game shutout, allowing only a single hit in the top of the second inning and tallying 10 strikeouts. In his past two appearances, McCraith has thrown 15 scoreless innings with 18 strikeouts and just two hits allowed.
Pitching a complete game is a laborious task, and McCraith threw over 120 pitches in his outing. Despite this, McCraith said he was “surprised when saw the pitch count … it felt more like 95.” His exceptional performance came in a game where the Thunder needed a win, and was a great note to end on.
The losses this week were particularly tough because they were seemingly preventable. Wheaton’s offense and pitching have been solid this season, but their defense has been a liability. The Thunder are on pace to commit 33 percent more errors this season compared to last (92 this year, 69 last year). Wheaton committed a total of five errors in the two losses to Millikin, as well as another five in the 9-1 loss to Edgewood last week.
This mitigates the impact of the significantly improved pitching from last year, in which the Thunder are projected to allow 28 fewer earned runs. If Wheaton is able to shore up their defense for the remainder of the season, they can fully capitalize on their improved pitching and ultimately win more close games. The 5-0 victory on Saturday, with zero errors, was a step in the right direction and should be a welcome confidence boost as the team heads into their next set of conference games.