While the hitters often draw most of the attention, a baseball team without solid pitching typically isn't headed toward success.
It's true that the Stoverstown Tigers boast one of the most powerful lineups in the Central League. Still, without the team's dominant performances on the mound, Tim Thoman's squad wouldn't have experienced the success it has enjoyed this season.
"We've had 12 shutouts so far this year," Thoman said after his team wrapped up a second consecutive Central League championship Tuesday evening at Manchester. "So pitching is the key."
Before Tuesday's 5-2 victory over the Indians, the Tigers (23-4-1) entered with a cumulative 1.88 ERA for the season. Not surprisingly, four pitchers — Ryan Kehr (10 innings, 1.80 ERA), Chris Mattison (16 innings, 1.13 ERA), Nate Harmon (29 innings, 0.93 ERA) and Anthony Lippy (35 innings, 0.51 ERA) — have helped to drag down that number.
That's saying something, because there are two other key starters (Daryl Harang and Kyle Raubenstine) who have excelled for Stoverstown this season.
Harang, a former starter with the York Revolution in the Atlantic League, has a 1.90 ERA over 23 2/3 innings. Raubenstine, a South Western High School graduate, leads the squad with 38 1/3 innings pitched while sporting a 3.05 ERA.
"Pitching wins ballgames," Thoman said. "And our defense is usually pretty solid, so it's been a lot of fun."
New additions: Lippy, a New Oxford High School graduate, and Raubenstine have been major reasons behind Stoverstown's success. Both hurlers are in their mid-20s, but are first-year members of the Stoverstown organization. Both, too, were recruited by the same guy — their now teammate Kehr.
"Ryan Kehr played at Littlestown with the South Penn League and he's the one who told me to call Tim," said Raubenstine, who also plays for Brushtown in the South Penn circuit. "And once we talked, that was it ... I was here."
While Raubenstine enjoys playing competitive baseball wherever and whenever he can, he really enjoys playing with Stoverstown because of the level of competition throughout the Central League.
"That's why I came here and pitched more," he said. "Now don't get me wrong, it's still good competition over there (the South Penn League), but it wasn't the level that I was looking for. I'm looking to play against more college-level guys and this league is more college level. So that's where I am and that's what I wanted to see."
Opponents are hitting .233 this season against Raubenstine, who is fourth on the squad with 34 strikeouts.
His numbers, however, are not at the top of Raubenstine's mind when he comes to each game. Case in point, he was unaware that Tuesday's victory clinched a title.
"I don't know," he said with a grin. "I just come here to play baseball."
Raubenstine will have the opportunity to play more baseball with Stoverstown this summer. By winning the Central League regular-season title, the Tigers have qualified to play in the York County Championship Series vs. Susquehanna League champion East Prospect and have also qualified for the Tom Kerrigan Memorial Tournament over the Labor Day weekend.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.