BRISTOL - The Bristol Blues have an electric pitching staff that has tallied 298 strikeouts so far this season, the most in the Futures League.
The Blues have been led by starter Jared Kollar and reliever Neal McDermott, who held the top two spots among league leaders entering Tuesday night’s games.
Kollar has been strong at the top of the rotation for the Blues. He picked up his third win of the season Sunday against the Nashua Silver Knights.
Kollar has struggled at times, giving up at least three runs in three of his six starts this season, and has a 4.55 ERA. But he has still found a way to keep his team in games. Bristol has lost just one of his starts so far this season and Kollar has a 3-1 record.
“He’s got a routine that he follows to the T,” Blues manager Ronnie Palmer said of Kollar. “Even in between his starts, he has a plan and process all of the time. I think some of his inconsistencies are simply because he was a true freshman this season. He also may be getting a bit tired after the college season. But I’ve been really impressed with him, especially for such a young kid.”
McDermott has been the team’s best pitcher out of the bullpen all season long. In 14 games, McDermott has 11 saves and just one blown opportunity. He has a 1.10 ERA with 32 strikeouts.
Whenever he comes in the game, it’s assumed he’s going to shut the door.
“It’s exciting and it’s good to have,” Palmer said of McDermott’s effectiveness. “You call on him wherever and whenever. There’s this air of confidence around him, even though he has this ‘kid next door’ mentality. He just does what he has to do. It’s great to watch.”
Kollar has 35 strikeouts this season, the most in the league, including 16 in his last two games. Meanwhile, McDermott has struck out at least one batter in every outing except one this season.
“They both have great stuff,” Palmer said. “They have a great mix of fastball, curve and changeup. They both work down in the zone well and are effective on and off the plate. Jared, I think, has to be a bit more creative with it, since he’s a starter and batters see him more than once a game. But they both do a great job with what they’ve got.”
But Palmer sees their impact off the field as the biggest difference maker for Bristol.
“They’re both just quality young men,” the manager said. “They’re the kind of guys you want representing your club. Everything we’ve asked them to do, they’ve done. They’ve been great for the Bristol community and a real pleasure to have around.”
The two pitchers are also college teammates, having just completed their freshman seasons at Seton Hill University. Palmer admits that it can be challenging with younger pitchers, but he always leans on the college coaches for help.
“I always talk to the college coaches and see what their plan is for the guys,” Palmer said. “You can’t push these guys too much, and it’s all about supplementing the college season so it benefits [the players]. With these guys, [Seton Hill head coach Marc Marizzaldi] told me what his plan was for them and we have lived up to that. Obviously, it’s worked out really well for them, which is great to see.”
Palmer gives the credit to the two pitchers, but also the coaching staff at Seton Hill.
“[Marizzaldi] does a tremendous job with his guys over there,” Palmer said. “They’ve been to eight straight regional tournaments. They went to the World Series a few years ago. That doesn’t happen without good coaching. Marc and I have known each other for quite some time, so I’ve seen how he has helped so many young ballplayers.”
Tyler Roaix can be reached at email@example.com