After former Head Coach Marek Drabinski left the men’s baseball team in the middle of last season, it did not look promising for the near future of a program that last won a national championship in 1879.
Now, under new Head Coach Grant Achilles, Bruno (1-5) has started its season with an injury to Christian Taugner ’17 — the team’s leader in earned run average and innings pitched last year — and a four-game sweep by South Alabama. With a new coach and a hugely disappointing season last year, expectations could not have been very high, but so far the outcomes have been worse than expected.
The Bears got their first win last weekend against Northeastern, and their hitting showed promise: Eight of the 10 Brown hitters registered an RBI in the 13-6 victory. Sam Grigo ’18 had three of the 13 team RBIs, which — after a weekend in which he batted 5-for-8 — earned him Ivy Rookie of the Week honors.
The opponent in this week’s four-game series is North Florida (10-8), which has already played 18 games this year. The warmer climate helps for hosting games, and without the Ivy League game restrictions, nonconference opponents typically play a lot more games leading up to the conference schedule.
The restrictions do not allow for Ivy League teams like Brown to start their seasons as early as most teams do. For example, when Brown played its first series of the year against South Alabama, the Jaguars had already played 11 games.
“They’ve been able to get more games in, so they’re in more of a midseason form,” said Taylor Wright ’15. “They also have some veteran guys that have been around and are well prepared. Their pitching staff has a couple of different looks, too, that we haven’t seen yet this year.”
The snow has not helped the Bears in preparation for away games in warmer climates, as they just started practicing outside this week. Because of the inclement New England weather, Brown’s first 20 games of the season will be played away from home — a clear disadvantage to teams that don’t have to deal with the troubles of snow.
“We’ve been forced inside until just this week, but we have only been able to get on the turf football fields,” Wright said. “We’re used to these conditions though and are pretty good at getting our work in, no matter where we have to practice.”
Averaging more than six runs a game, the Bears’ offense has shown its ability to get runners across the plate. Out of the six batters who have had more than 20 at-bats, three are hitting over .300, including outfielder Robert Henry ’17, who is batting .357/.419/.571 in 28 at-bats. Unfortunately for Bruno, the other three are batting .240 or lower.
Similarly, North Florida’s top three hitters — all of whom have more than 70 at-bats on the season — bat over .300. Trent Higginbothem is North Florida’s leader in RBIs — 19 — and batting average — .392.
North Florida’s pitching has been good so far, with four pitchers registering ERAs of 3.33 or lower and more than 15 innings pitched. Redshirt sophomore Matthew Naylor leads the team with a 1.80 ERA and 10 appearances, all in a relief role. Tyler DuPont has been the Ospreys’ best starter in terms of wins, but Bryan Baker is the only starter on the team who has posted a sub-three ERA, despite being on the wrong end of a lot of unearned runs.
Two seniors, Dave St. Lawrence ’15 and Eddie Fitzpatrick ’15, have led the Bears with two starts, both going 0-1. Reid Anderson ’18 registered Brown’s only win of the season in his start against Northeastern, in which he went 5.2 innings and only gave up two earned runs. If Brown wants to contend with anybody this year, it has to get some good pitching from some of its middle relievers: In innings five through seven so far this year, the Bears have given up 32 runs.
“Our pitching staff just has to stick to our approach like we do with any opponent,” Wright said. “We want to be aggressive and get ahead in counts. If we attack the strike zone with our fastball and throw our offspeed stuff for strikes, we should be successful.”