Ten games into a collegiate baseball season is often telling of how the team is going to shake out. It also gives the coach a feel for what has to change in order to improve before it gets too late.
The men’s baseball team’s first-year head coach Dan Pepicelli said he is very happy with how the team has performed during the first 10 games this year. Following a 3-1 series win over Bucknell, the team is off to a 6-4 record, a drastic improvement on last year’s 1-9 opening.
“We have had a way of just going one game at a time, looking at the next challenge in front of us,” Pepicelli said. “We play with a lot of heart. Our biggest asset is that we are tough competitors. We have flaws we are trying to work out, but all and all, our ability to get into a baseball game and be tough in one-run games is our most important asset.”
This tenacious attitude was visible this past weekend of play, against the Bison (7-12.) The first game was an extra-innings thriller won by the Red, but the Bison took the second in a blowout.
“It’s always good to get out and play a tough team like Bucknell and get three out of four [wins],” Pepicelli said. “We are a different group. They are very tough kids and competitors.”
The third and fourth game, however, were nitty-gritty close wins, and Pepicelli said he was very proud of how his team stayed tough in those efforts.
On the offensive side, the whole weekend was not dominated by one or two players, but rather by team-effort performances. Only in one game did a position player record more multiple runs batted in. That one game was freshman right-fielder Josh Arndt’s three-RBI effort in the first game, a performance that also included a game-winning, 2-RBI double in the 11th inning.
“We had a better total effort than we had in the past,” Pepicelli said. “We’ve been able to plug players in, take players out who have really contributed. We have been able to play a lot of people and get contributions from just about everybody. I think that’s really important going forward.”
Pitching was another huge story this weekend. In the blowout loss in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader, Cornell used five pitchers who gave up a total of 12 runs. Just minutes after the game ended, Pepicelli had to gather the troops and focus on the second game of the day.
“Their character and heart are really, really the strength of the program right now,” Peppicelli said about his pitchers. “[Junior] Jamie Smith pitched some really great innings for us at the end of that blowout, and I really think that gave us momentum going leading into the second game of the doubleheader.”
In the second game, junior pitcher Tim Willittes shutdown Bucknell, only allowing three hits and no runs, while striking out 13. In the last game of the series, junior Peter Lannoo tossed six and two-thirds strong innings, only giving up four hits.
“We had some pitchers that really shined for us,” Pepicelli said. “We are asking our pitchers to really bring their games. [Assistant] coach [Scott] Marsh does a great job with them and to give us as many quality innings as possible. Timmy and Pete did fantastic jobs conquering the strike zone.”
Going into the next stretch, the Red will be playing five games in six days against Central Florida and Rollins. This would be a cause of concern for most, but Peppicelli said he remains confident in his team.
“They really enjoy it and work very hard at it,” Pepicelli said. “We are really focused on the details, but we let them play. I think five games in six days is something they really look forward to. It should be a lot of fun, I don’t want to take that out of it.”