Like most successful baseball coaches, USC Aiken skipper Kenny Thomas has never been afraid of mixing things up.
From lineups to pitching assignments, he expects his players to fill whatever role benefits the team. Heading into this weekend’s home series against Augusta State, it’s the starting pitchers that will see their slots vary a bit.
“No particular reason except I felt we needed a little change,” he said.
Ryan Milewski, Derek Beasley and Wyatt Brown have started all of the weekend series for the No. 10 Pacers (27-8, 13-5 Peach Belt Conference), but that’s changing against the Jaguars (10-25, 3-15).
Beasley (8-0, 3.75 ERA) will move up a spot to pitch in tonight’s 7 p.m. opener, and Thomas said his performance is key to the three-game rivalry set.
“The first thing is first,” Thomas said. “That’s Derek Beasley going out and getting after them (tonight).”
The Jaguars’ Kip Custer (5-4, 4.65 ERA) will take the hill opposite Beasley in a matchup of lefties.
Brown (4-2, 4.06 ERA) will also slide up a spot to pitch the middle game of the series Saturday at 1 p.m. against fellow righthander Josh Barks (0-2, 6.98 ERA). Barks pitched eight innings against the Pacers on March 27 in an Outback Cup tilt, giving up one run on eight strikeouts and 10 hits.
The finale, set for 4 p.m. on Saturday, is where Thomas made his biggest change. Lefthanded sophomore Danny Wissmann (1-0, 5.54 ERA), who has pitched 13 innings of relief work this season, will get the ball for USCA in that game.
“He pitched well out of the bullpen,” Thomas said, noting that Wissmann’s relief performance made the decision to pull him out of the pen a tough one. “He’s got the kind of stuff that he can go out there and give me four or five good innings.”
He’ll be going up against righty Dylan Wall (0-3, 4.06 ERA) for the Jaguars.
Milewski has been moved into a bullpen role for the Pacers in an effort to “get him back going,” Thomas said. The righthanded senior couldn’t get beyond the fifth inning in three of his last four starts before pitching 1⅔ innings of relief in Wednesday’s 7-3 loss at Limestone. He gave up two hits and two runs, one earned, in that effort.
Even though the Jaguars are last in the PBC standings, Thomas said he expects a tough series, and Jaguar head coach Chris Cooper said he had been trying to hype up the set as much as possible.
“Hopefully, to them it means a lot,” Cooper said of his players. “I’ve been harping on them that they’ve still got a shot; nobody’s been eliminated from the Peach Belt Tournament.”
The second-place Pacers have lost three of their last four games and went 5-3 on their longest road trip of the season. While the overall record wasn’t terrible, the end of the stretch didn’t go the way Thomas had hoped.
“We’ve had two or three games where we haven’t played well,” he said. “Hopefully, this weekend, being back at home will help with that.”
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.
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