Baseball jumps to No. 22 in rankings
Off to its best start in 27 years, the baseball team heads to Virginia for a three-game series against James Madison.
The Pirates (7-2) have won six straight games since losing two of three to Oklahoma in the season-opening series.
The Pirates outscored then-No. 22 Arizona, 24-5, over the course of last weekend as The Hall’s rotation was a major factor in the series sweep.
The Hall managed to shut down the Wildcats offense that was batting .359 as a team.
The Hall’s rotation held Arizona to a team batting average of .222 over the series.
Senior ace Josh Prevost, named Big East Pitcher of the Week for the second time in three weeks, pitched a gem in the series opener.
Prevost surrendered one run on five hits in eight innings while striking out seven batters.
Prevost leads the Pirates in every statistical category: ERA, innings pitched, wins and strikeouts.
Head coach Rob Sheppard said that Prevost’s performance last Friday got the team on a roll.
“Friday night usually establishes the weekend and it’s good to get a quality start,” he said.
“It also helped us to get off to a good lead. When you have your No. 1 going on Friday night, it really sets the tone for the weekend.”
The 7-2 start is the best for the program since 1987, the same year the team won its first Big East Championship. The Hall is now ranked No. 22 in the Collegiate Baseball Poll.
The team’s fast start is a complete turnaround from last year’s 0-9 start.
It could have been even better, but games against Lehigh and Rutgers were postponed due to inclement weather.
Sheppard said that the team’s recent stretch is owed to the players’ effort and putting complete games together.
“The guys have been playing hard, they’ve been playing together and playing really well,” he said.
“One of the things that we’ve done has been playing complete games. We’ve got pitching, our defense has been doing really well and the offense has been hot as of late.”
As Sheppard said, the defense has stepped up its play over the last few weeks.
In the first series against Oklahoma, the Pirates committed 10 errors. In the six games since, the team has committed only five errors.
The offense has been led by junior Sal Annunziata and sophomore Zack Weigel. Annunziata, a preseason All-Big East selection, leads the team with a batting average of .400 with five doubles and nine RBIs.
Weigel, the lead-off man, is second on the team with a .375 average with four RBIs and is 6-for-6 on stolen base attempts.
Both men have hit safely during the team’s six-game winning streak.
Weigel said the team has taken a one-game-at-a-time approach during the early weeks of the season.
He said that the team needs to continue playing their style of baseball.
“If we play the game we play, I think it doesn’t matter who’s out there,” he said.
“If we play our style, we can defeat anyone.”
James Madison (6-6) is batting .281 as a team and has six players batting .300 or over.
The Dukes are led by senior Matt Tenaglia and junior Kevin Husum, both of whom have a batting average of over .430. Tenaglia leads the team with 17 RBIs.
The Dukes as a team have scored 78 runs total, but run into an impressive Pirates rotation.
The Hall’s pitching staff is allowing opponents a batting average of .240 coupled with a 3.74 team ERA.
Prevost, junior Anthony Elia, and sophomore Sam Burum have sub-2.00 ERAs, with Prevost leading the way with an ERA of 1.57.
Elia, the regular Saturday starter, has a 1.80 ERA and Burum, who’s made five appearances including one start, has a 1.93 ERA.
Junior Conor Krauss anchors The Hall’s bullpen with a 2.08 ERA and seven strikeouts in 4.1 innings.
As a team, the Hall has allowed only 39 runs this season, while James Madison has allowed 78 runs to opponents.
This will be the first meeting between the two teams since 2007, when the team’s played at a neutral location.
The team’s split those meetings, but James Madison won the other head-to-head battle, 7-6, in 1997 at Owen T. Carroll Field.
The Dukes are 3-3 at home this season, while the Pirates are 7-2 on the road.
First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Friday, with Prevost set to pitch against junior Patrick Toohers.
The next games are set to start at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
T.J. Brennan can be reached at email@example.com.