With a league-leading 2.28 ERA, the baseball team boasts the most dominant pitching staff in the NESCAC. Leading the way is Oliver Van Zant '13, who is first in the NESCAC in innings pitched, ERA and strikeouts.
In two starts last week, Van Zant pitched 13 innings—including one complete game—and allowed no earned runs, striking out 19 batters and letting up only a single walk. For his achievement on the mound, he was named NESCAC Pitcher of the Week for the second time this spring.
The hard throwing right-hander from Westport, Conn., has made a name for himself from the start, winning NESCAC Pitcher of the Year, Rookie of the Year and First Team All-NESCAC as a first year. After a less successful sophomore campaign, Van Zant has come roaring back.
Though he also played in the field in his first two seasons at Bowdoin, this offseason Van Zant decided to devote himself full time to pitching. He said an offseason focus on pitching helped sharpen his mechanics and build arm strength, which was a big factor in improving his fastball location.
Head Coach Mike Connolly has witnessed the impact the offseason had on Van Zant.
"Last year, at times, his fastball would come up and he couldn't come in with it," said Connolly. "Now, he's able to go to both sides [of the plate] for strikes and hitters can't sit on a fastball outside. What that does is now he can make you swing and miss with the big breaking ball or sharp slider."
Van Zant has been missing a lot of bats this season: He has collected 46 strikeouts and only nine walks in 31.2 innings, for an astounding 10 strikeouts per seven innings pitched. This is due in part to Van Zant becoming far more efficient as a pitcher.
"I've really been able to cut back on walks, and with a better fastball location I can get weak contact and a lot of groundballs which helps me get deeper into games," said Van Zant. "As a freshman, I'd get a lot of strikeouts but I'd get into a lot of deep counts and my pitch count would go up real fast."
Connolly said he bases his team's strategy on pitching and defense, and pitching will continue to play an important role in the team's performance. As the leader of the best staff in the conference, players look to Van Zant to set the tone every time he toes the rubber.
"He understands the role he has as a starting pitcher, that he controls our outcome on the days that he pitches," said Connolly. "He understands that responsibility and he enjoys it."
The sports editor of the Orient chooses the Athlete of the Week based on exemplary performance.