Big-game pitchers are usually developed over time. Dave Stewart, Jack Morris, and Curt Schilling all matured into that role as veterans during their respective MLB careers. Rarely does a pitcher have those kinds of qualities and convictions as a young player to thrive under the pressure.
Nate Karns is one of those guys.
According to manager Matt LeCroy, Karns wanted the ball for the crucial Game 3 moments after they lost on Thursday, “Even last night after the game, he was ready. He was up for the challenge.” Menhart knew he was ready during warmup, “The focus was there from the start from the first pitch he threw in the bullpen. There was no reason for any dialogue and he normally he likes it. It was an easy read to tell that he was just locked in.”
The righthander was simply magnificent, hurling seven scoreless innings while striking out eight. Karns pounded the zone and challenged Erie’s lineup as the picture of efficiency tossing only 79 pitches before relenting to Christian Garcia who had to pitch as part of his rehab assignment.
As good as he’s been since returning from his stint in the majors, and he’s been excellent (2.57 ERA in 87.2 innings with 100 strikeouts), he was a different pitcher on Friday night. There was something about his focus and his presence that hasn’t been there before. “You saw the same thing I saw,” pitching coach Paul Menhart said, “I saw a different kind of ‘I’m out here to win this game for this ballclub, for this organization’. There was nothing selfish about his outing at all. It was all about the team. He was even vocal on the bench with the offense. It was a special outing.” LeCroy echoed the sentiment, “For me, that was his best performance of the year…He could have pitched at any level. His stuff was that good tonight.”
The Senators could have easily found themselves on the brink of elimination. Instead, Karns shined brightest when his team needed him the most. That’s the mark of a winner. That’s Nate Karns.
• The game was the first home playoff game for the Senators since September 11th, 2010 when they lost to Altoona 10-5 and were eliminated from the playoffs.
• The Trenton Thunder finished off their sweep of the B-Mets with a 3-0 victory in Binghamton. The Thunder will now return home in preparation for Game 1 of the EL Championship Series at Arm & Hammer Park against the winner of the Senators/SeaWolves next Tuesday night.