The North Shore Country Day baseball team advanced to the sectional finals for the first time in its history this season, and with all its top pitchers returning in 2015, the Raiders expect to build upon that success.
The Raiders came into the year with a fairly inexperienced pitching staff. Two seniors, Chris McCarren and Ian Meyer, had significant experience on the mound, but McCarren suffered a shoulder injury and Meyer moved to the field primarily. North Shore was forced to rely heavily on its younger arms.
There were some struggles early on.
The Raiders’ No. 1 starter, Gordie Rohrbach, had issues at times keeping the ball over the plate.
“In the beginning of the season, [Rohrbach] had trouble throwing strikes,” Meyer said. “In one game he walked eight guys in four innings.”
A small adjustment helped turn things around.
“I’ve always been focused on speed, and I’ve always had control issues,” Rohrbach said. “I dialed it back two-to-three miles per hour, and for hitters that’s very slight. But for me, it made all the difference.”
By the playoffs, Rohrbach had come into his own as a leader on the mound for the Raiders, throwing over 120 pitches twice in the postseason and tossing a complete-game shutout against rival Parker in the Class 2A North Shore Country Day Regional final on May 24.
Sophomore Jackson Gray is another player who gained valuable pitching experience for the Raiders in 2014. He started the Benedictine Sectional semifinal against Holy Trinity on May 28 and is expected to be the No. 2 starter next season.
“[Gray] throws about 50-50 with his curveball and fastball,” Meyer said. “If he gets stronger, he’ll blow away hitters.”
Junior Andrew Case, who had some restrictions on the mound after returning from Tommy John surgery, should see an expanded role in 2015.
“He should be 100 percent by next season,” coach Paul Kosinski said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to unleash him.”
And top reliever Connor Watrous is expected to contribute even more after coming in as a closer frequently as a freshman.
“Connor came in late in a lot of games,” sophomore catcher Alex Nickel said. “Next year he’ll start more.”
The Raiders are happy to have made the historic playoff run — they fell to Westmont 6-4 in the sectional final Saturday to finish the season 15-12 — but they’re far from satisfied. With the experience of this season and an offseason of development, improved pitching depth should make them even more formidable.
“We’re going to have a lot of pitchers who can pitch in the playoffs and give us quality innings,” Rohrbach said. “This year we really only had two pitchers throw in the postseason in me and Jackson. Next year we should have four or five.”
“All of them gained huge experience,” Kosinski said. “That will make them all that much more confident next season.”