Larkin, Clermont look to improve behind O’Hara in Syracuse rotation

first_img Published on March 26, 2014 at 1:30 am Contact Connor: [email protected] | @connorgrossman Facebook Twitter Google+ Syracuse ace Sydney O’Hara has been masterful on the mound this season, but for a team boasting a 5.02 earned run average, its pitching depth is questionable.The Orange’s pitching staff features only one player with a winning record, with every starting pitcher not named O’Hara only having one win apiece. When the freshman O’Hara isn’t on the mound, SU head coach Leigh Ross has mainly turned to sophomore Lindsey Larkin and freshman Christina Clermont. But the opposition is hitting an alarming .311 against those two pitchers. On paper, the situation looks bleak. Ross insists it’s not necessarily a depth issue with the staff, but instead that SU’s (12-15, 5-4 Atlantic Coast) second and third starter could use a dose of confidence.“I think it’s more of a confidence and experience issue,” Ross said. “Sydney’s just been thrown out there as a freshman and is learning on the fly, while (Larkin and Clermont) haven’t gotten as many chances.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“So now they’re just starting to go through that learning curve.”With the competitiveness and parity within the ACC, SU doesn’t have time to conquer too big of a learning curve. Larkin made only the fifth start of her career against Georgia Tech on Saturday, and surrendered seven earned runs in two and two-thirds innings. In the first game of the doubleheader, O’Hara was able to contain the Yellow Jackets’ offense to four runs in a complete-game effort.Like the freshmen, Larkin is also adapting, as she is working to implement a rise ball to counteract the drop ball in her repertoire. And Ross dubbed Larkin’s drop ball as potentially the best pitch from anyone on the staff.“I’m dominantly a drop ball pitcher, but you can’t live off of one pitch,” Larkin said. “I had to learn the rise ball this year so I can try to throw the hitters off.”Larkin admitted that when she is hit hard, the drop ball usually isn’t dropping and is left hanging over the plate. But when the drop ball is effective, she induced groundball outs. Against Georgia Tech, five of eight outs Larkin recorded were via the groundball, and Ross and pitching coach Jenna Caira both said other balls were hit on the ground. Larkin was getting the job done, but was getting hit where defenders weren’t. Clermont has been thrust onto the collegiate stage in her first season, and her statistics reflect just that. While making 10 starts — the second most on the team behind O’Hara — her 8.01 ERA in 50.2 innings has been less than impressive.Caira believes Clermont needs to work on her mental toughness at times, but has the stuff to compete. Featuring a screwball as a right-handed pitcher, the pitch actually breaks inside to a right-handed hitter, a useful weapon when executed properly.“I think she needs a little more success in some easier innings,” Caira said. “Against Georgia Tech, she had one really good inning where she utilized her entire defense, an important part of our pitching philosophy.”Both Clermont and Larkin will need to improve their performances if SU is to reach new heights in the ACC. Ross believes she has unlocked somewhat of a secret with her pitching staff. She will look to bring in the junk-ball-throwing Larkin to replace the hard-and-fast throwing O’Hara to give opponents a different look from the batter’s box.And to make this plan effective, Ross had a few words of advice to provide to her pitchers looking to throw their way out of a slump during practice.“Stop thinking and analyzing so much,” Ross said. “Throw hard, be real loose and who cares where it goes.” Commentslast_img

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