March 14, 2007

Hyland, Toma Anchor Red’s Pitching Staff

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Heading into the season, the Red pitching staff — especially the starting rotation — is very cloudy. Junior Walker Toma, however, believes that he and his fellow hurlers will give the team a chance to win and be competitive regardless of which pitcher is on the mound.

‘‘“I think the last few weekends we have pitched really well on the whole,” Toma said. “There are a lot of people showing really consistent efforts and I think we should have a strong staff.”

‘At the front end of the rotation, senior Jim Hyland has emerged as a force to reckoned with. After coming to Cornell with the intention of playing third base, Hyland made the move to the bullpen as a sophomore, where he experienced great success. He appeared in six games, compiling a record of 3-0 to go along with a 2.16 ERA, one save and eight strikeouts; an effort which earned him an All-Ivy honorable mention selection as a reliever.

‘“Jim was a pretty good corner and middle infielder, but he had always thrown the ball with a lot of movement and we thought he had a very live arm,” said assistant coach Scott Marsh. “We saw some things that we thought might translate to the pitching mound, and when we saw him in his first bullpen session, we were wowed.”

‘Last year, Hyland moved to the starting rotation and was one of Cornell’s top starters, sporting a 4.35 ERA while finishing 2-2 and striking out 29 in just 39.1 innings. Hyland features a fastball that tops out in the low-90s, but has exceptional movement. He has a slider and has been working on adding a curveball to his repitoire — but learning the ropes as a pitcher is no easy task.

‘“There is definitely a big change between being a position player and being a pitcher,” Hyland said. “As a sophomore, I was still doing some of both. Last year and this year, I have really been focusing on learning the mental side of being starter, knowing how hard and when to practice.

‘”This season, Hyland has taken it to another level and gives the Red a bonafide No. 1 starter. Though it is still March, Hyland’s early numbers are nothing short of impressive. He had posted a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings with a 1-1 record.

‘“I think Jim is a great pitcher and has definitely established himself as our No. 1,” said junior centerfielder Brian Kaufman. “If every one of our pitchers went out with the confidence that Jim does on the mound, we’d have a great pitching staff.”

‘While Hyland will lead the rotation, in order for the Red to have success, it will need consistent innings and performances from the back end of its rotation as well. Enter junior Walker Toma. Toma had a successful freshman season, pitching 23 innings in 12 games, while posting 4.70 ERA and striking out 18. He took a step back last season, however, compiling a 7.23 ERA to go along with a 1-3 record in nine appearences — including three starts. However, Toma is eager to get back out on the field and help his team in its quest for a second Gehrig division title in three years.

‘“He likes to get out there and he likes to battle,” said assistant coach Scott Marsh. “He wont shrink in a pressure situation and has a lot of confidence in his abilities, and we have a lot of confidence that he will go out there and keep us in ballgames.”

‘Known for his control more than his power, Toma has four pitches, each of which he usually throws in any situation. He throws a fastball in the mid-80s and a compilation of off-speed offerings. Although he uses a slow curveball and a changeup, Toma’s out pitch is his slider.

‘“His slider is his best pitch,” Marsh said. “When it comes down to clutch situations, we tend to go to the slider.”