The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Meet the 2024 baseball team – pitchers

Experienced arms leading the pack for WSU
Grant+Taylor+pitches+in+relief+in+WSUs+game+against+Stanford%2C+May+20%2C+in+Pullman%2C+Wash.
BRANDON WILLMAN
Grant Taylor pitches in relief in WSU’s game against Stanford, May 20, in Pullman, Wash.

Bringing in Nathan Choate to be the head coach of the baseball program has brought a lot of newfound hope for the pitching staff. In 2023, WSU held a team ERA of 5.55 overall but that rocketed up to 6.73 in Pac-12 play. 

Choate has sung the praise of a trio of seniors who have shown great improvement over the winter months working with their new coaches.

“Grant Taylor, Spencer Jones and Duke Brotherton, just to name a few pitchers that are really throwing the ball well right now,” Choate said. 

Taylor shared similar praises for a couple of more arms, proving the team has confidence in their depth. 

“I’m really excited to see Kevin [Haynes] throw for us, Duke throw for us and Spencer Jones. All those guys I’m really excited to see us all go to work together,” Taylor said. 

With that praise in mind, let’s meet the 2024 pitching staff: 

#3 Jack Lee (Senior) – Left-handed pitcher 

Lee has had a roller-coaster career in college which started in 2021 at CSU Bakersfield with 19.2 innings over 12 appearances. In his first season with the Cougs in 2022, he pitched in 13.0 innings to the tune of a 6.92 ERA, struggling with walks as he let up 14 bases in those 13.0 innings. 

Due to an arm injury, he missed the entirety of the 2023 season, meaning it has been an extended break from the mound for the senior. 

#13 Nick Lewis (Freshman) – Left-handed pitcher 

Standing at 6 feet even, Lewis is a Choate product through and through. Originally committed to Loyola Marymount, he followed his coach to the Palouse. Lewis ranks as the No. 21 LHP out of California and the No. 351 LHP overall, according to Perfect Game

During his high school career, he threw three no-hitters and maintained a 1.50 ERA with 120 strikeouts over four seasons. 

#20 Connor Wilford (Senior) – Right-handed pitcher 

Out of high school, Wilford committed to Cal Poly for fall of the 2020 season before transferring to Saddleback College for spring 2020. He then spent the next two seasons at Saddleback, making the All-Orange Empire Conference First Team after finishing the season with a 3.07 ERA. 

Last season, Wilford arrived to Pullman and made 26 appearances, including two starts. As a long reliever, he threw 45.2 innings and had a 5.32 ERA. He struck out 47 batters and walked just 13, already following Choate’s pitching philosophy. 

#28 Spencer Jones (Senior) – Left-handed pitcher 

One of the arms to get Choate’s appreciation, Jones made 17 appearances at WSU last season and had a strikeout percentage of 21.6% and walk percentage of 7.7%, both average to above-average marks. 

Jones proved able to limit hard contact, but batters hit .289 against him. If the defensive behind him plays at a consistent level, his ERA will likely dip from the 5.05 mark he had last season. 

#31 Kevin Haynes (Senior) – Right-handed pitcher 

“Kevin Haynes: He looks really good. He’s going to be a good tool for our pitching staff,” Taylor said. 

Haynes brings three seasons of experience at Sacramento State where he made 68 appearances and threw 110.1 innings, facing 516 batters in the process. While not a big strikeout guy, Haynes stands at 6 feet 4 inches, making his release point higher than most that batters will see, part of the battle of deceiving the hitter. 

#35 Kaden Wickersham (Junior) – Right-handed pitcher 

A bullpen piece, Wickersham played the previous two seasons at Hutchinson Community College out of Kansas. Throwing 46.2 innings over the two seasons, Wickersham had dominant stuff but struggled to find the zone on a consistent basis.

Striking out 74, his 14.27 strikeouts per nine proved his dominance, but he also walked 39 batters, nearly one batter every inning. Choate’s simple approach to pitching might be the key to unlocking Wickersham as a dominant high-leverage reliever. 

#36 Liam Miller (Sophomore) – Left-handed pitcher 

Miller’s experience with the Cougs is limited, just 3.0 innings in 2023, but he struck out four batters and did not let up any free bases. Although he controlled the zone, he gave up three extra-base hits and two runs in his small sample size. 

#38 Jacob Gabler (Sophomore) – Right-handed pitcher 

At 6 feet 6 inches tall, Gabler’s tall frame will enable him to be an intriguing piece to come into the game and switch up the batter’s eye level. 

As a high school senior, Gabler threw 52 innings while striking out 103 and holding a dominant 0.40 ERA. While he has only thrown 1.1 innings in college, another off-season working with the team could increase his chances of seeing the field. 

 #39 Dylan Skolfield (Freshman) – Right-handed pitcher 

The No. 31 prospect in Washington, Skolfield had a 0.79 ERA as a senior at Eastlake High School in Sammamish, Washington, 

His fastball is around 83-86 MPH and spins at 2,221 RPM, his changeup is around 76-77 MPH and spins at 1,385 RPM and his curveball has a spin rate of around 2,400 RPM, which is just below that of an average MLB pitcher. 

#40 Giordano Mezzomo (Redshirt Sophomore) – Left-handed pitcher 

As a freshman, Mezzomo attended Cloud County Community College, pitching 19 separate times and dishing out 61 strikeouts to just 15 walks in 37.0 innings. His potential stays behind the wall of limiting the long ball. 

He missed year one with an arm injury and got a redshirt. The 2024 season will be his first of three potential seasons on the Palouse. 

#41 Chase Grillo (Redshirt Senior) – Right-handed pitcher 

Grillo has made several stops across Washington during his playing career. First up, he attended Spokane Falls Community College for his freshman season before transferring to Gonzaga. With the Bulldogs, he never played after the 2020 season got canceled and he redshirted in 2021.

Then, he got his start with the Cougs in the 2022 season. Over 30 appearances, Grillo had a 4.55 ERA and struck out 50 batters over his 31.2 innings. The 2023 season saw more struggles. He pitched in just 18.2 innings but managed 31 strikeouts despite giving up 19 runs.

#42 Ty Schwaiger (Freshman) – Right-handed pitcher 

A flamethrower from the right side, Schwaiger sat in the low 90s with his fastball and threw the first no-hitter in his high school’s history. Developing his secondaries will be the key to developing his secondary pitches.

#43 Braiden Boyd (Freshman) – Left-handed pitcher 

Ranking as the No. 9 LHP in Washington for his recruiting class, Boyd stands in a 6 foot 5 inch, 233-pound frame while throwing from the left side. 

#44 Grant Taylor (Senior) – Right-handed pitcher 

Taylor has four seasons on the Palouse, but Choate has him ready for the new season and Taylor said he is looking forward to getting back on the mound to help the team. 

“His pitching philosophy is simple. We have a big focus on pitching in and it is really helping me,” Taylor said. 

With 157.1 innings at WSU already, Taylor will likely break the 200.0 innings threshold all with the Cougs, an impressive feat in the current climate of collegiate athletics. While two seasons removed from his best season in terms of ERA with his 3.04 ERA season in 2021, his biggest weakness is Choate’s biggest coaching strength. 

Last season, Taylor walked 37 batters in 56.0 innings, but with a new approach to attacking the zone, his production should revert back to his 2021 form. 

#45 Ryan Orr (Sophomore) – Right-handed pitcher 

Hailing from Tumwater, Washington, Orr stayed in his home state to come to WSU. Last season, he made 11 appearances and pitched in 14.1 innings. With a 3.77 ERA, he prevented runs despite giving up 14 hits and seven walks. 

#46 Carson Judd (Redshirt Junior) – Left-handed pitcher 

Judd spent three seasons with Yakima Valley Community College, taxing his arm with 113.3 innings, striking out 125 and having his ERA sit around 3.00. In his redshirt sophomore year in 2023, he earned Yakima Valley Male Athlete of the Year for his 3.08 ERA and 86 strikeouts over 73 innings. 

#49 Duke Brotherton (Senior) – Right-handed pitcher 

After three seasons with the Cougs, Brotherton is another pitcher that Choate pointed out to throwing the ball exceptionally well over the winter, completing the trifecta of seniors primed for a dominant final season. 

He has just pitched 28.1 innings in his three years with the Cougs, meaning his arm is still fresh in the grand scheme of being a college senior. 

#54 Rylan Haider (Redshirt Freshman) – Right-handed pitcher 

During his first season on campus, Haider redshirted, giving him the opportunity to work with the team without burning a season of eligibility. The No. 6 RHP in Washington, according to Perfect Game, he was pitching varsity baseball as a freshman, finishing his high school career with nearly 100.0 varsity innings. 

#55 Andrew Baughn (Senior) – Right-handed pitcher 

Two seasons at the College of Southern Idaho started Baughn’s college career before his first season at WSU in 2023. Under the former regime, Baughn pitched 34.0 innings to the tune of a 6.35 ERA while striking out 40 times and 10 walks, giving up just below one hit every inning. 

#57 Elias Farland (Senior) – Right-handed pitcher 

Farland is the final pitcher on the roster and is another arm to start and end their career with the Cougs. Improving every season, the 2023 season saw him take a massive leap forward in his production. 

As a freshman, he posted a 10.13 ERA over 8.0 innings, but he had a 3.29 ERA over 13.2 innings as a junior. Despite not having an ultra-increased role, Farland has improved his production and has stayed with the program through the coaching change.

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About the Contributor
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.