Pepperdine to test Pilot pitching

By The Beacon | April 12, 2012 9:00pm

Coming off their first shutout loss of the season, the Pilots hope to bounce back against Pepperdine

(Monica McAllister | The Beacon)

By Bruce Garlinghouse, Staff Writer --

Senior righty Kyle Kraus is a winner.

Last Thursday, Kraus grabbed his 25th win in a 2-1 victory over The University of San Francisco, tying the all-time win record for the University of Portland.

"Getting a win any time is good," Kraus said. "Especially that one, that one was special."

Slated to face Pepperdine this weekend, Kraus has a chance to top Wes Smith's record, which has remained untouched since 1981.

However, Kraus said he isn't concerned with records.

"I'm not really paying attention to the records. I'm more worried about our team's sake right now and getting these games," he said.

The Pilots swept the series against USF, putting them in a tie with BYU for a share of second place in the WCC.

But the streak didn't last long. After some uncharacteristically poor pitching, the Pilots suffered a 10-0 loss to Washington, their first shutout of the year.

Head Coach Chris Sperry described the game as an "anomaly" and said over a long season, off days happen.

Despite games against Washington State and Oregon State, the Pilots' pitching has been among the best in the nation.

Heading into Tuesday's game, the Pilots lead the nation in ERA posting a 2.12.

"We just bought into the system," junior Chris Johnson said. "We're emphasizing on not walking guys, putting the ball on the ground and we're just pitching really well right now."

Freshman Travis Radke has made an immediate impact and is among the nation's best on the mound.

He ranks second in the nation in hits allowed per nine innings (4.07) and his 1.07 ERA is 11th best.

"He is incredibly mature as a pitcher for how young he is," Johnson said. "He's pitching out of this world right now."

Radke, who was recruited out of high school, said he has enjoyed being able to contribute as a freshman, and had some kind words for his older teammates.

"I'm just enjoying being able to be in the company of pitchers like (Kyle) Kraus and (Chris) Johnson, and how they've been great mentors to me on the game and how you go about pitching."

The outcome of this weekend's series could affect the Pilots' chances of making the national tournament.

Winning the series would not only improve their chances of grabbing an at-large bid by winning the conference, but also give them an opportunity to still make the national tournament by strengthening their RPI.

The WCC has continued to become a stronger conference. It currently has three teams ranked in the top 50. Gonzaga is ranked 25th, the University of San Diego is 29th and Pepperdine is 31st.

At No. 63, a series win on the road for the Pilots could bump them higher up on the RPI charts, giving them a chance to still make the tournament if they don't win the WCC.

Despite its potential effect on the Pilots' tourney hopes, Sperry said this weekend's series is just like any other.

"We try to prepare for every team the same way," Sperry said. "If you make more out of who you're playing and what it means you create a lot of pressure. We spend so much time trying to minimize pressure, we don't make a big deal of it."

(Monica McAllister | The Beacon)

(Monica McAllister | The Beacon)

(Monica McAllister | The Beacon)