Last season, the men’s baseball team began the year with a tough series in Chico State, found their mojo and propelled themselves to a 12-game winning streak, and hit a rough patch in the schedule before finally settling with a 16-8 record at the halfway point.
This season, the men’s baseball team began the year with a tough series against Chico State, found their mojo and propelled themselves to a 13-game winning streak, and hit a rough patch in the schedule before finally settling with a 16-8 record at the halfway point.
Déjà vu. History often does repeat itself. And if things couldn’t get any stranger, the team is now sitting at an 8-4 record in the PacWest, an 8-4 record at home, and an 8-4 record on the road. Baseball can certainly have its quirks.
“We played in some close games against good teams,” said head coach Joe Schaefer. “When you get comfortable in that environment, I could say we’re battle-tested up to this point. The pitching and the defense have been really good the past few weeks, and I think those are the two biggest contributors why we are where we are.”
Junior pitcher Stephen Young, with a 1.71 ERA and a 4-0 record, has been a massive contributor so far in his first season as a Sea Lion. When asked about the team’s overall success, he referred to the team’s offensive and defensive balance.
“I think our team has really played well,” said Young. “Where we’ve had offense in games, it’s picked up our pitching, and vice versa.”
At one point, the Sea Lions were 16-3, with an 8-0 record in the conference and an 8-0 record on the road, and were ranked in the top 25 in multiple national polls, all immediately following a 13-game winning streak. Unfortunately, as is sometimes the case in baseball, one series managed to send the positive vibes to a screeching halt. After a brutal extra innings loss at home to Colorado Mesa, the team would have to travel to Utah for a four-game series against Dixie State (currently 24-6).
“It’ll be tougher to play there with the thin air, and it’s kind of hot,” said senior pitcher Kellen Sheppard. “The ball’s going to be flying.”
The ball flew just about everywhere but the Sea Lions’ direction. Not only were they swept, but they lost each of the first three games by six runs or more. In the final game of the series, the team went into the bottom of ninth inning with a 7-4 lead before closer Eric Pierce took the mound. He had a 1.13 ERA and eight saves heading into the series, but the last inning would be a rare and improbable one that he would want to have back. Six consecutive hits led to four Dixie State runs, the walk-off win and the sweep, a fitting end to a miserable series.
Yet, after all of that, the Sea Lions sit at 16-8 at the halfway point, which they probably would have been content with at the start of the season. Once again, baseball has its awkward streaks, but the long-term record is what matters.
The men’s baseball team will have an opportunity to rebound at home this weekend with a four-game series against Cal Baptist. Whether the four-game disaster in Dixie State was the start of a slump or a complete fluke from the remainder of the season, this upcoming series will be very telling.