The Seton Hall baseball team is accomplishing feats that have not occurred since before the Pirates’ current players were born.
Seton Hall has won eight of its first nine Big East games, taking two out of three against Xavier, and more recently sweeping Butler and Villanova. The last time Seton Hall had such a dominant start was 29 years ago, when the 1989 Pirates won 13 of their first 14 Big East contests.
Despite midweek losses against non-conference opponents, Seton Hall has carried over success weekend to weekend. Now at 8-1 in the Big East, Seton Hall is tied in the loss column with an 11-1 St. John’s team that will visit Owen T. Carroll Field for a three-game series from May 11-12. First place may be on the line when the two teams meet, and the Pirates will need to maintain their dominance for a chance.
That dominance has come from a harmony of pitching and hitting, but the foundation for this Pirates team has come from stellar performance on the mound.
“I think our starters have done a really good job of keeping us in the game, giving us some quality starts,” coach Rob Sheppard said.
Seton Hall’s starters Shane McCarthy, Ricky DeVito and Billy Layne Jr. have combined to allow just 14 earned runs in nine conference games. The trio also has 52 strikeouts in 48.1 innings pitched.
DeVito has been the standout so far for the Hall, boasting an ERA of 0.92 in conference games. The sophomore has had a breakthrough season, his eight-scoreless innings against Butler on April 21 earned him the win, followed by Big East Pitcher of the Week on April 24. Shane McCarthy, meanwhile, has a 2-0 record in conference, with a 2.50 ERA in his three starts.
Layne Jr. is the only weekend starter that has struggled in conference play, boasting a 5.73 ERA. Although, if last weekend was any indication, Layne Jr. may be turning the corner as he threw five hitless innings and six in total, allowing two runs, with both coming off a homerun in the sixth.
While the starters have made wins possible, the bullpen has had to secure them, something they have not failed in doing in the Big East.
“The guys out of the bullpen have been very good,” Sheppard said. “The combination of the starting pitching and guys coming out of the bullpen really have given us a boost to help us have some success this early.”
The bullpen is anchored by Matt Leon, who has yet to allow an earned run through nine innings pitched. The senior leads the team with four saves in six relief appearances. Andrew Politi has also shut down opposition in relief, boasting a 3-0 record in four relief outings.
Even some underclassmen have contributed to Seton Hall’s dominant bullpen, with freshman Ryan McLinskey along with sophomores Corey Sawyer and Noah Thompson combining to pitch 13.1 innings, while allowing only one earned run.
“We have a good bullpen behind us,” Layne Jr. said following the sweep of Villanova on April 29. “It gives us a lot of confidence to go out and throw multiple innings. Definitely gives us less weight on our shoulders.”
The combined efforts of the starters and relievers have allowed the Pirates to dominate their Big East opponents. Their team ERA of 1.89 is the lowest of any Big East team so far in conference play.
While the pitching has been dominant, so has the hitting behind the senior bats of Al Molina, Rob Dadona Ryan Ramiz and Mike Alescio. The Pirates are batting .296 to start off conference play. This high average is second in the conference to only St. John’s, as the Red Storm are hitting an eye-popping .336 as a team in 11 Big East games.
If Seton Hall wants to stay hot throughout the rest of conference play, their pitchers must continue to dominate, and if Layne Jr. is any indication, this should not be a problem for the Pirates. When asked what is in store for the Hall, Layne did not hesitate to answer.
“Going up, winning more, sweeping the rest of the conference,” Layne Jr. said. “Looking forward to it.”
Matt Lapolla can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @MatthewLapolla.