Sports

Ten games in eight days give baseball team chance to shape up

After rocky start to season against Gamecocks and Patriots, Bruno seeks wins over easier competition

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, March 21, 2014

After losing five of six games against tough opponents to open the season, the baseball team has an easier but busy slate over spring break, playing 10 games against five teams, including its first Ivy opponents during the break’s second weekend.

The Bears (1-5) were swept by No. 2 University of South Carolina in their first three games of the season, failing to score a single run, and won just one of three games against George Mason University.

Offense has been Bruno’s Achilles heel this season. The Bears are hitting just .202/.244/.212, having found their way into more double plays — three — than extra-base hits — two.

The pitching has been polarized, with some pitchers excelling and others struggling. Anthony Galan ’14, regarded as the team’s ace entering the season, has made only one start, allowing seven runs in 4.1 innings. He did not start last weekend as a health precaution. Fellow starter Dave St. Lawrence ’15 has a 6.00 ERA in two starts, both losses.

But Christian Taugner ’17 has been a welcome addition, with a 1.23 ERA in 14.2 innings over two starts. Lucas Whitehill ’14 was similarly impressive in his lone start, shutting out George Mason over seven innings and earning the win. These two bright spots have carried the team thus far, but the rest of the team will have to step up to get some wins over the recess.

Bruno’s first opponent of the break is University of Massachusetts at Lowell, which it faces Saturday and Sunday in Williamsburg, Va. The Riverhawks (8-3) are off to a hot start this season, but their competition has been weak, as they have not yet faced a team that has received any votes in official national polls. UMass–Lowell’s most recent game was a 1-0 loss to Yale, so it seems likely to be on par with Bruno’s Ivy competition.

The Riverhawks have not hit particularly well this season, but their offense has been powered by plate discipline. So far this season, UMass–Lowell is hitting just .244 and slugging just .297, but it has posted a strong .353 on-base percentage thanks to nearly four walks per game. Its pitching is also strong, with a 2.30 ERA and 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings. While the Riverhawks seem strong on paper, they are 0-1 against the Ivy League this season, and Bruno certainly stands a chance.

The Bears will also play the College of William and Mary Saturday, as part of a doubleheader with the Riverhawks, and again on Monday. The Tribe (14-6) has won 11 of its last 13 games, including recent 31-1 and 16-4 drubbings of Iona College (1-8). But, like the Riverhawks, William and Mary has played a weak schedule, facing just one ranked team, in which it fell 17-2 to No. 3 University of Virginia.

As might be expected from the scores against Iona, the Tribe has a powerful offense. The team as a whole is hitting .323/.413/.494, with an impressive 21 home runs. But where its offense excels, its pitching staff struggles. William and Mary has served up 14 long balls, and its 3.32 team ERA is less than impressive, given its competition. If one of Brown’s starters can keep the Tribe off the scoreboard, Bruno bats should be able to take advantage.

Bruno’s final nonconference opponent of the break will be Richmond, which it faces Tuesday and Wednesday. The Spiders (7-10-1) opened their season on a seven-game losing streak. But a 7-3-1 run since has seen the talented Spiders turn things around. Richmond seems to be in the Bears’ talent neighborhood: It fell 16-11 to William and Mary but swept Penn in a three-game series.

The Spiders have one of the weakest statistical profiles of any Brown opponent thus far, though they have faced the toughest schedule. Though their offense has been decent, hitting .252/.347/.376 with 12 home runs, their pitching has done them in. The Spiders’ 4.74 ERA is bad, but their 1.85 strikeout-to-walk ratio is even worse. Brown trails Richmond in both categories, with a 4.96 team ERA and 1.59 K/BB ratio, but in fairness, Bruno has encountered higher caliber competition. The Spider pitching staff may be just what the Bears’ offense needs to get going.

Ivy League play commences for the Bears March 29 with a doubleheader against Columbia in New York City. The Lions (5-9) have also played a tough schedule and have some impressive wins to show for it. They opened their season by splitting a four-game series with the University of South Florida, which received votes in the most recent national poll. Columbia also lost narrowly to No. 26 Texas A&M and No. 19 Texas.

The Lions are hitting .247/.320/.312 as a team and have a 5.25 ERA. These numbers are less than inspiring, but they have come against strong opponents and should not be taken at face value. The Bears are better equipped to face Ivy competition, having encountered two of the best teams in the nation already this season. But Columbia is far from a pushover.

The Bears keep their weekend road trip going with a doubleheader at Penn Sunday, March 30. Like Columbia and Brown, the Quakers (2-9) have struggled against a tough schedule, but Penn has played just three games against teams receiving poll support and lost all three. Its other eight games have been against middling competition, and it has fallen mostly flat.

Penn’s .240/.332/.391 line on offense is mediocre, though it has shown some power with 13 home runs. But the Quakers’ pitching has been gruesome, posting a 5.85 ERA while allowing opponents to hit .302. Penn may be the weakest opponent Bruno will face this season, so the Bears would do well to take advantage.

The team’s first game of the break is against the Riverhawks at William and Mary Saturday at 1 p.m.

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