Let's all get this out the way right now. Last weekend never happened. Seton Hall? Never heard of them. Wright State? They play baseball? I am going to view that as an outlier weekend. Seton Hall and Wright St played the greatest games of their season while the Hoos turned in their worst performances in years. Oh well. Move on and forget.
Last night was the night the team got back down to business. Rumor is Coach O'Connor and Co. had a nice meeting with the boys on Monday. Possibly during practice, maybe before practice, or it might have even been the whole practice. If it is anything like some of the "discussions" we had as a team with the coaching staff, I can tell you, the fear of God is instilled in you and you don't ever want to lose again. My legs are still recovering from a nice running session we had in the Fall of '08.
Artie Lewickistarted on the mound for the Cavaliers and cruised through nearly four innings before creating a mess for himself. With two outs in the 4th, Lewicki walked a few batters and couldn't put away hitters which lead to four runs scoring. Ryan Ashooh came on in relief and cashed in some of Lewicki's runs while giving up two of his own. After the inning, the Dukes held the lead 6-3 and looked like the Hoos were going to drop another game.
The best thing the Hoos have done since they played Coastal Carolina in the first weekend happened in the following innings. Instead of rolling over and allowing JMU to take the lead and finish them off, the boys fought back and scored at least one run in the next four innings, including four in the sixth and seventh innings. Timely hitting, good defense, and great relief pitching have characterized this program since O'Connor took over and that is how this team played in the back half of the game. There was no quit and they earned an impressive victory. This is the game I have been searching for for three weeks now.
After the fourth, Austin Young came on and fired three scoreless innings while striking out four. That was a big outing for Young and I expect this outing to earn him some more innings in the crunch time come ACC weekends. Young is a strong pitcher out of the pen that the Cavaliers might have to rely on the rest of the year to assist Justin Thompson and Ryan Crockett. Barrett O'Neill and Joel Effertz combined to shutout the Dukes the final two innings and assure the lopsided 14-6 victory.
When seven of the nine players in the lineup record at least two hitters and all but one reach base at least once, you know it is a good day at the ball field. The top seven in the lineup combined for 16 of the 17 runs the Cavaliers earned yesterday which included Jared King and Mike Papi both recording three hits a piece. Papihad three hits in the game to go with his two runs scored and two RBIs while King had his three hits in four at bats with 2 RBIs and one run scored. Chris Taylor had quite a day at the plate himself getting two hits which included a home run and a triple. The Hoos were able to take advantage of four errors the Dukes gave him which was another key to victory. Taking advantage and cashing in on those missteps are a huge part of baseball and this team is going to have to keep that up.
I have heard some rumblings that there are some shakeups coming down the chain for this weekend in terms of the rotation and bullpen. If I were to bet I would say you would see Branden Kline move back to the role he thrived in last year as the closer while Thompson moves back to his set up role as well. Who will replace Kline in the rotation is anyone's guess. Silverstein and Mayberry will remain in their roles. I would venture to guess Crockett would become apart of the weekend rotation but that would leave a left handed pitcher void in the bullpen. I also think we will be seeing a lot more of first year Brandon Downes in the outfield. Downes has impressed the coaches so far this season and had quite a good fall as well.
The boys kick off their ACC slate this weekend when they host VPISU in a three game tilt. I will detail that matchup on Friday as always. Until then, focus on bombarding the NCAA tournament selection committee with emails to let Mike Scott and Co. in to the dance. Go Hoos!