Weekend Sweep Boosts Baseball's Confidenceby Brent Harris • March 17, 2008
The Wabash baseball team's four-game sweep of Robert Morris College - Springfield will not be remembered for any offensive explosions at the plate, but that's OK with head coach Cory Stevens. He watched his team take care of the little things in all four games to move to 7-6 with five key games on the schedule for this week.
"Pitching, defense, and small ball gave us those wins," Stevens said after his Wabash team completed the sweep with a 5-1 victory Sunday afternoon at Mud Hollow Field. "Offensively we found a way to win. We weren't hitting the ball well. Our pitchers kept us in every game, and our defense was very good.
"We need that kind of confidence --- the feeling that even if we're not hitting the ball early in a game that we can still execute in other areas --- as we prepare for DePauw on Wednesday and our North Coast Athletic Conference opener at Ohio Wesleyan University Friday and Saturday."
Wabash scored half of its 14 runs for the Robert Morris series in the sixth inning or later. The Little Giants trailed in three of the four games, forcing the first game of both Saturday and Sunday to go into extra innings. Wabash won 3-2 in eight innings in Saturday's home opener, then rallied for a 4-2 victory in game two. The Little Giants needed nine innings to pick up a 2-1 win Sunday afternoon before the 5-1 win in the finale.
The Wabash pitching staff held the Eagles to a team batting average of .181 for the series. The Little Giants had an earned run average of 1.16 in 31 innings of work, surrendering just six total runs in four games. Patrick McCarley picked up the win in relief of Mike Korfhagen in game one Saturday, then came back to earn a save in game two after Andy Weeks scored his first win on the mound this season. Keegan Leckrone improved to 2-0 with a win after coming into the game for starter Joey Niezer in Sunday's first contest. Freshman Brian Van Duyn pitched six scoreless innings in the last game, scattering five hits for his second win of the season and first complete game.
"Van Duyn threw a good game in Texas against Schreiner University," Stevens said. "He's working three pitches really well and is showing a lot of confidence now in his abilities. McCarley and Leckrone have accepted their roles as relievers and closers. They both came into the games and threw strikes."
McCarley and Leckrone combined for six strikeouts while allowing only four hits over 6-2/3 innings.
Junior All-Region outfielder Jake Thomas led the Wabash offense with seven hits and four RBIs in the series. Sophomore third baseman Bobby Ritz hit .333 with a double, a triple, and three RBIs. Ritz drove home the game-winning run in Saturday's second game with a two-run single for the first hit of the game for the Little Giants. His leadoff triple in the eighth inning of the series opener led to the winning run. Matt Dodaro added four doubles to his career totals over the four-game set, giving him 30 for his career to move into a tie for sixth on Wabash all-time list with Zak Judd '99.
The Little Giants will need to wake up the bats and execute in every area when DePauw heads to Mud Hollow Field Wednesday afternoon for a 4 p.m. contest. The Tigers are 11-3 after sweeping their weekend series against Lakeland, including a 9-0 win in the finale Sunday. Wabash has not defeated DePauw since winning 7-5 in Greencastle in 1999. Wabash travels to Delaware, Ohio for a four-game series against Ohio Wesleyan to begin NCAC action. The Little Giants were 1-3 against the Battling Bishops last season.
"Obviously the results from this weekend give us confidence going into the week," Stevens said. "DePauw is a very strong team, and Ohio Wesleyan had a great spring trip, including a split of the two-game series against Wooster. We'll have to continue to execute this week to provide an opportunity to win."
Photos - (top left) The Wabash coaching staff (l-r) of Nick Marsh, Mike Schultz, head coach Cory Stevens, and Ryan Flynn watch the action from Saturday's home games.
(Middle right) Patrick McCarley (earlier in the season vs. Guilford) picked up a win and save as part of a Wabash pitching staff that held the Eagles to six runs in four games.
(Bottom left) Junior Matt Dodaro puts down a bunt to advance a base runner. The Little Giants played "small ball" most of the weekend to pick up four wins over Robert Morris College - Springfield.