Baseball drops two of three
Published: Monday, March 19, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 03:03
Coming into the baseball season, head coach Jim Sherman outlined the core of his offense—two- and three-hole hitters D.J. Long and Nick Ferdinand. Long, a junior second baseman who batted .350 as a freshman, continued his early season struggles Sunday, going 0-for-5, stranding five runners on base.
With a relatively young squad, Sherman said he would rely on the two juniors to anchor the offense. After Long’s average slumped to .250 Sunday, Sherman said the pressure to perform might be affecting his second baseman.
“I think he’s struggling only because he knows him and Nicky are the experienced, offensive guys and you put a little bit more pressure,” Sherman said Sunday. “Hopefully some of these younger guys come on, relieve a little bit of the pressure, and you know, D.J. will be there in the end. There’s no doubt.”
The Hens lost two out of three games to CAA leader UNC Wilmington over the weekend, leaving their CAA record—what Sherman said he cares most about—at 3-3. Delaware is 8-11 overall. Sunday was a case study in the Hens’ offensive struggles, as they fell to the Seahawks 7-0 at Bob Hannah Stadium.
Long insists his struggles are not connected to his increased responsibility as an anchor of the offense. He believes opposing teams are offering him fewer fastballs, and more off-speed pitches than he saw in previous years.
Long leads his team with 14 strikeouts.
“I was frustrated,” Long said of his at-bats Sunday. “I see a lot of off-speed stuff. But other than that, it’s just getting the right pitch and not swinging at bad pitches. Sometimes I get myself out by swinging at bad pitches.”
Ferdinand, a junior outfielder, hit a single in the third inning, his only hit. Sophomore Jimmy Yezzo grounded into a double play in the next at-bat, wiping any early rally away in the third. Delaware hit into four double plays Sunday.
Delaware also had runners on base in every inning except the ninth and could not convert a run.
“We had opportunities to be right in the game,” Sherman said. “I think that was the tell-tale sign of inexperience. We couldn’t sneak a run, put a ball in play with less than two outs, runner on third, to get something across.”
Sunday’s contest was much closer than the scoreboard revealed at the end. Sophomore pitcher Chad Kuhl pitched 6.1 innings, holding the Seahawks to three runs on eight hits. Kuhl had a season-high 10 strikeouts.
Kuhl was hit early in the game for a few runs, including a solo home run in the second inning, but settled down, focusing on lowering his pitch location.
“I needed to find the knees a lot. I was up a little bit, falling behind hitters,” Kuhl said. “I think this was my best [performance] so far.”
Sherman echoed Kuhl’s opinion about his pitcher’s outing.
“He made some good pitches, his slider is really coming on,” Sherman said. “He’s really grooming into a real legit conference pitcher.”
Friday foreshadowed a difficult weekend for the Hens. The Seahawks crushed Delaware 22-3, flexing their offensive weaponry. Delaware rallied on Saturday, winning 3-2 after junior transfer Alex Maruri hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning to salvage the victory.
Maruri did not play Sunday because he told Sherman he felt discomfort in his knee in his final at-bat Saturday. Sherman said Maruri might have a “partial tear” in his knee, but would not specify what part. Maruri—who is hitting .306—was scheduled for an MRI Monday, Sherman said.
Despite some offensive struggles, the Hens are pleased with their current position in the CAA, having faced Old Dominion and UNCW—the No. 2 and No. 3 CAA preseason poll picks—the last two weekends.
“If you really had to put me on the spot in the beginning of the year, knowing who we played the first two weekends, I would’ve come out with maybe a 3-3,” Sherman said. “I’m settling for it for right now.”