Sports

Baseball Virginia trip yields three wins

Weather cancels or postpones six games, but Bruno finds success when it steps onto field

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, March 31, 2014

Chris Smith ’15 winds up to pitch. Smith allowed four runs in 2.2 innings to the Tribe, as Bruno’s bullpen struggled with an 11.25 ERA last week.

The baseball team had a strong spring break, winning three of four games against the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and the College of William and Mary. The Bears (4-6) were originally scheduled to play ten games, but poor weather forced them to cancel two against the University of Richmond and postpone the first four games of its Ivy League schedule.

A tough early schedule saddled Bruno with a weak record at the season’s outset. They were 1-5 after the series against No. 3 University of South Carolina and George Mason University, but the Bears seemed to find a groove this past week

“Our offense really came around,” said Head Coach Marek Drabinski.

 

UMass-Lowell

The Bears’ offense had a coming-out party against the Riverhawks, scoring 17 runs across their two-game sweep in Williamsburg, Va.

The first game was an 8-2 win for Bruno, featuring a power surge from the Bears’ bats. In addition to scoring a then-season high eight runs, Bruno also mashed eight extra base hits, including its first triple and home runs of the year. The Bears had tallied just two extra base hits in their previous six games.

“I thought we swung the bats well,” Drabinksi said.

Catcher Josh Huntley ’17 and left fielder Daniel Massey ’14 each contributed a double and a home run, while Will Marcal ’15 went  2-for-4 with two doubles and a walk. Center fielder Robert Henry ’17 and third baseman Marc Sredojevic ’17 also each had two hits.

Starting pitcher Christian Taugner ’17 was stellar again, allowing one earned run on five hits while striking out eight and walking none. His ERA is now a paltry 1.23, which is the seventh best in college baseball among first-years.

The Bears triumphed once again the following day, topping the Riverhawks 9-3. Bruno set a season high in runs for the second straight day, though plate discipline played a larger role than slugging. The Bears had four fewer hits and five fewer extra-base hits than in the previous game, but walked four more times.

J.J. Franco ’14, after going 0-for-5 in the first game against the Riverhawks, went 3-for-5 with a run batted in. Sredojevic was a force with the bat once again, belting a three-run home run to open the scoring in the first inning.

Anthony Galan ’14 returned to form after a difficult start to the season. He was lit up in his first start, facing then-No. 1 South Carolina and did not pitch the following weekend as a health precaution. But he held UMass-Lowell in check, allowing one earned run with five strikeouts in 6.2 innings pitched, though he did allow nine hits and two walks.

“I’m happy with where he’s at,” Drabinski said. “Two weeks off did him a world of good.”

 

William and Mary

The Tribe proved a much tougher foe than the Riverhawks, but Bruno showed its mettle in rebounding for a dramatic win after a blowout in the first game

The Bears’ opener against William and Mary was the second in a doubleheader, starting shortly after they defeated the Riverhawks. The Tribe took them by surprise, dominating from wire to wire for a 16-4 win. Starting pitcher Lucas Whitehill ’14 did not look much like the pitcher who shut out George Mason over seven innings, allowing six runs in only 1.1 innings.

The offensive explosion should come as no shock, as the Tribe leads the NCAA with 9.8 runs per game and a .341 team batting average.

“They can really hit,” Drabinski said.

In relief, Chris Smith ’15 also struggled, allowing four runs in 2.2 innings. After Smith was pulled, Jake Spezial ’17 posted a similarly ugly line in his college debut, giving up six runs on seven hits and three walks in three innings. To his credit, Spezial looked strong through three, having allowed just one run on four hits while striking out three batters. But he allowed the first four hitters of the eighth inning to reach base before intentionally walking the fifth and leaving the game.

On offense, Tim McKeithan ’16 accounted for half of Bruno’s six hits, going 3-for-4 with a double and a run scored.

Two days later, the Bears came ready to play, topping the Tribe in a 16-15 slugfest, thanks largely to an eight-run eighth inning.

As the final scoreboard indicated, the pitchers had a difficult time once again. Dave St. Lawrence ’15 gave up five runs on 11 hits in 4.2 innings, and Taylor Wright ’15 yielded seven more on ten hits in just 1.2 innings. Nathan Mann ’15 locked the Tribe down comparatively, ceding two runs on three hits in 2.2 innings.

It may have been a bad day for the Bears on the mound, but the bats managed to back the pitchers up. Franco led the way, going 4-for-6 with three RBIs, while Massey and Marcal each pitched in three hits and three RBIs as well.

The Bears trailed 13-8 entering the eighth inning, but put on a show to take a 16-13 lead. Franco had two hits in the frame, including a three-run triple. Massey, Marcal and Sredojevic each had RBIs off of the Tribe’s Joseph Gaouette. William and Mary made it close in the home half of the eighth, but Bruno held on for the impressive win.

Drabinski was thrilled with the game, saying, “I’m real proud of our guys, the way we came back.”

The Bears were then scheduled to play at the University of Richmond March 25 and 26, but freezing temperatures led to the cancellation of both games. Weather also caused Saturday and Sunday doubleheaders against Columbia and Penn, respectively to each be delayed two days, a development Drabinski called “frustrating.”

 

Bets on bats

The story of the break was Bruno’s offensive breakout. The Bears were averaging just 1.5 runs per game after their first six, but scored 9.25 per game in their last four.

Drabinski had a few ideas as to why the offense finally made its presence known.

“Some of it is just getting more at-bats,” he said, but also made sure to mention the influence of the team’s challenging early season schedule, which is now paying dividends.

“It gives our guys an advantage because they’ve seen some of the best in the country,” he added.

The Bears were shut out in their opening series against South Carolina, which has the fourth best team ERA in the NCAA at 1.87, and scored nine runs in three games against George Mason, which is 39th in the NCAA with a 2.83 team ERA. Drabinski said that the team benefited from facing these pitchers because it made hitting inferior pitchers easier.

Overall, Drabinski was encouraged by the break, though he acknowledged that he was still trying to figure out his bullpen.

“We’re still trying to figure out some pieces in the bullpen,” Drabinksi said, a job made more difficult by injuries to relievers Kevin Guthrie ’16, Eddie Fitzpatrick ’15 and Sam Hauser ’17. Bruno’s relievers allowed 20 runs in 16 innings over the break, making for a scary 11.25 ERA.

Though he was happy with the team’s progress, Drabinski cautioned the team will need to maintain their gains as they begin Ivy League play Monday and Tuesday.

“Hopefully we keep it going because we’re facing some pretty good arms the next two days,” he said.

The Bears play a doubleheader at Columbia (6-12) Monday and at Penn (6-10) Tuesday.

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