Bucknell right-handed pitcher Connor Van Hoose came through in the clutch for his team in the biggest moments of the season.
In the opener of the Patriot League Tournament semifinal series against a favored Navy team, he threw a complete game, giving up three hits and one run with no walks and six strikeouts, outdueling Navy ace Noah Song and helping lead his team to the championship series against Holy Cross.
The Bison came up short against the Crusaders in the final, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort on Van Hoose’s part. In the opener of the series, he threw 7.1 innings, giving up four hits and three runs, just one of which was earned, with no walks and seven strikeouts in what was an eventual 4-3 Holy Cross win. Between the two conference tournament games, he threw 16.1 innings, giving up just seven hits and two earned runs with no walks and 13 strikeouts.
This, mind you, came after being named First Team All-Patriot League for his efforts during the regular season.
Those successes undoubtedly were made even sweeter by the fact that his first two seasons at Bucknell hadn’t gone as smoothly. Whether it was that he hadn’t quite been given the opportunities yet or that the injury bug plagued him, it just took him a couple of years to put it all together.
As a freshman in 2015, he had a 2.70 ERA and eight strikeouts in 6.2 innings of relief. In 2016, he appeared in nine games (five starts, four in relief), and had a 3.86 ERA, a 25/12 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a .240 opponent batting average in 28 innings. With those stats, he showed glimpses during his sophomore season of what he would become, but injuries didn’t help, as he missed significant time during the month of March.
Things just kind of came together for him as a junior in 2017, when he became the undisputed staff ace. In 13 starts, he went 6-6 with a 2.28 ERA. In 83 innings, he struck out 97 (the second-highest single-season total in Bucknell history), walked just 19, and held opponents to a .218 batting average.
As Van Hoose heads into his senior season, he’ll once again be looked to as the leader on the pitching staff, thanks not only to his outstanding track record, but also the attrition Bucknell suffered after the season, most notably Van Hoose’s rotation mate Mike Castellani, who had a 3.49 ERA over 77.1 innings.
With Navy, Holy Cross, Lehigh, and Army all having reasons for optimism again this season, the margins will again be thin for Bucknell’s hopes of getting back to the Patriot League Tournament. But if they can get there again, they can rest easy knowing they have a guy in Connor Van Hoose who proved to have ice water running through his veins in big moments once before.