One thing is clear about the 2014 baseball team after its west-coast trip: the Cardinals can swing the bat. And it has been the team’s bats that have guided them to a satisfactory 8-5 start to the season.
After 13 games, the reigning NESCAC West and Little Three champs own a .321 team batting average (fourth in the league) and a .386 team on-base percentage (fifth in the league).
“I would say our trip was a success. I felt we grew as a team, and we definitely left a better team than when we arrived,” wrote center fielder Donnie Cimino ’15 in an e-mail to The Argus. “The trip is important to grow as a team and build chemistry with each other for two weeks, and I felt we definitely did that.”
Cimino and Andrew Yin ’15 are at it again this season. Yin, batting .404, leads the team with 23 hits, while Cimino, at 21 hits, leads all starters with a .420 batting average.
Yin broke Drew Dominguez’s ’09 Wesleyan single-season hit record of 60 last season, only to be eclipsed, after a five-hit performance, by Cimino a week later. Yin finished the season with 67 hits, while Cimino set the single-season record with 69. Both are on pace for another 60+ hit season.
Other offensive standouts from the trip include Robby Harbison ’17, Guy Davidson ’16, Sam Goodwin-Boyd ’15, and Jonathan Dennett ’15.
Harbison has made the most of his six starts as a designated hitter. The freshman has 12 hits in 26 at-bats (.462) and 4 RBIs. Davidson has been a rock at shortstop with an impressive .978 fielding percentage. He’s also an extra-base hit machine; nine of his 14 hits have gone for extra bases.
Goodwin-Boyd leads the team in triples (3) and RBIs (17), while Dennett has brought the power, leading the team in slugging (.538), OPS (.988), and has the only homer by a Cardinal this season. It was a clutch hit, a go-ahead solo shot in the top of the 12th inning against Rutgers-Newark to give Wesleyan a 6-5 victory.
“The home run was pretty sweet,” Dennett wrote in an e-mail to the Argus. “[It was a] 2-0 fastball, a little in, with two outs and nobody on, so I took a good swing and got a good piece. After I hit it, I was pretty sure it was out, but still watched it go. It was awesome because it was the 12th inning and the second game of the day, so I was happy to be able to do something in order to end the game and seal the win.”
But offense doesn’t win championships; pitching and defense do.
Wesleyan’s pitching, thus far, has been inconsistent. After 13 games in Arizona and California, the pitching staff comes back to the East Coast with a 6.32 team ERA. But a couple Cardinal hurlers have impressed, including starters Peter Rantz ’16 (19.2 IP, 1-1, 3.20 ERA) and Nick Cooney ’15 (18 IP, 1-1, 3.50 ERA).
Cooney has held his opponents to a minuscule .203 batting average. He had it all working for him on Mar. 20 against Macalester, throwing a shutout (7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 SO) to lead Wesleyan to a 9-0 win.
“I focused on just throwing strikes and not necessarily trying to blow the ball past the hitters, which helped minimize the walks I gave up,“ Cooney wrote in an e-mail to the Argus. “By mixing pitches and being able to effectively throw my fastball, in addition to my curveball and change up, for strikes, I was able to keep hitters off balance. Another aspect that really contributed to the shutout was our defense, who played very fundamentally sound and made some great plays.”
However, the Cardinals’ defense has been shaky at times, which has led to 27 unearned runs. Wesleyan’s team fielding percentage of .950 places them 8th of out 10 teams in the NESCAC.
The season, though, is still young, leaving plenty of time for the Cards’ arms and gloves to regroup. This team has the talent to set its hopes high for the 2014 season.
“We still have a lot of room to improve, and we need to get better because we are not where we want to be yet,” Cimino wrote. “Our team’s goals are to win a NESCAC championship and be the last team playing in Division III. We feel like if we put it to a goal and work towards getting better every pitch and every day, any goal is possible.”
The Cardinals begin the east-coast portion of their schedule this Saturday, March 29 with a doubleheader at Mitchell College. Wesleyan’s home opener is slated for Wednesday, April 2 against Elms College at 4 p.m.