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Baseball seeks more Ivy success against streaking Big Green

After losing in blowout to Holy Cross Wednesday, Bears to host Dartmouth for four-game series

The baseball team fell to the College of the Holy Cross 9-0 Wednesday, but as Dartmouth comes to College Hill for a four-game series this weekend, the Bears will aim to improve upon last weekend’s road split against Harvard.

Bruno (8-18, 2-10 Ivy) broke its conference winless skid last weekend in its first games since former coach Marek Drabinski’s abrupt resignation April 11, winning two and losing two against Harvard in Cambridge. The wins were encouraging for a team that lost four of its first eight Ivy League games by just one run.

But the Bears’ momentum hit a speed bump Wednesday as the squad traveled to face Holy Cross (11-23) and got thumped in a lopsided shutout.

The teams had originally been scheduled to play a doubleheader at Murray Stadium, but weather conditions rendered the field unplayable, forcing the teams to reschedule and instead play one game on the Crusaders’ campus in Worcester, Mass.

In the early goings, things looked good for Bruno. With the starters resting for weekend games, the Bears turned the entire game over to their bullpen, and Max Ritchie ’17 and Taylor Wright ’15 made this strategy appear to be a good move in the first two innings. Neither allowed a hit in an inning of work. With the bats, the Bears loaded the bases with one out in the third inning, but a strikeout and a fly out kept them off the board.

“The first couple of innings were good,” said assistant coach Grant Achilles, who has assumed part of the duties of the head coach position in the wake of Drabinski’s resignation.

But in the home half of the frame, things started to go south. Jake Spezial ’17 (L, 0-1) gave up two runs on three singles, two stolen bases and a walk, putting Bruno in a hole. Austin French ’16 struggled in the fourth, spotting the Crusaders another run via a bases-loaded balk.

Holy Cross started distancing itself in the fifth, adding three more runs off of Nathan Mann ’15 to open up a 6-0 lead. The Bruno offense could not respond despite its consistent ability to get on base. The Bears had exactly one hit in each of the second through eighth innings, but their inability to bunch them kept the Crusaders with a sheet clean. But Holy Cross kept piling on, scoring again in the seventh and eighth to bring the game to its final score of 9-0.

The Bears’ loss was not for lack of effort, but Achilles said he felt that “lapses in execution” plagued the team throughout. The team also seemed to suffer from bad luck.

“We call that one of Murphy’s Law’s days,” Achilles said.

After the poor outcome, Achilles called for his team to refocus their attention to the Big Green’s trip to town Saturday and Sunday.

“The biggest thing for them is just moving forward,” he said.

Dartmouth (10-17, 5-7) will serve well as a litmus test for whether the Bears’ wins against the Crimson were a sign of things to come, or simply a fleeting mirage in a season that has been more like a desert than anyone had hoped.

Defeating Yale in three of four games last weekend, the Big Green are coming into Providence on a hot streak. Junior second baseman Thomas Roulis is the reigning Ivy League Player of the Week, having hit 10-for-26 with five runs batted in and five runs scored over his team’s past six games.

As a team, Dartmouth is hitting .263/.335/.373 and has a cumulative ERA of 5.53. With the exception of their games against Yale, a team Bruno has yet to play, the Big Green’s results look surprisingly similar to the Bears’ against the same opponents. Their first two conference wins were both in extra innings, and over eight games against Cornell, Princeton, Columbia and Penn, their run differential is -11. In those same eight games, Bruno’s differential is slightly worse at -19. If that serves as any indication, the Bears are much closer to Dartmouth than their disparate Ivy records indicate.

For Achilles, the weekend’s focus is not specifically on defeating Dartmouth, but instead on the game’s mental aspect. He said he hopes that he can have the Bears playing as well as they know they can, with the possibility that wins will follow from such drive.

“Win or lose, I know they’re gonna play hard,” he said. But he added that he wants to ensure his players are “not trying to do too much.”

“We’ve talked a lot about excellency and consistency and holding ourselves to a higher standard,” he said.

The Bears’ new approach may be geared toward limiting simpler but nonetheless damaging mistakes, like committing errors. A key aspect of their strategy is confidence, according to Achilles, who said he aims to get the team “believing in each other and believing in ourselves.”

Achilles’ strategy showed positive early returns against Harvard. With a full week of practice, he may be able to ensure that this weekend’s games have good things in store for the Bears.

The first game against Dartmouth is Saturday at noon.

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