After dropping its opening three games of the season in Chapel Hill, N.C., last weekend, the Pirates’ baseball team will look for improvement when it return to action on Friday, Feb. 20 to kick off a three-game series with Old Dominion.
The trip to Norfolk, Va., won’t be their last stop in the state whose nickname just happens to be the “Old Dominion.” A Feb. 27 – March 1 visit to Charlottesville will help close out a 10-game road trip for the Hall before returning to South Orange for a March 4 meeting versus Manhattan.
The Pirates (0-3) struggled adjusting to the frigid outdoor weather (a weekend high of 49 degrees in Chapel Hill) as well as finding some consistency in their pitching arsenal. A total of nine pitchers were used, while the team surrendered 33 hits and were outscored 26-10. Despite the rough start though, head coach Rob Sheppard still sees the positives.
“Some of our younger players got an opportunity to really see what it’s like to compete at the Division I level,” Sheppard said.
One of those players was freshman Matt Leon, who made his Pirate debut on Saturday, Feb. 14 in the team’s first game of a double-header versus North Carolina. The freshman from Bethlehem, Pa., came in relief for senior Anthony Elia in the fourth, striking out two and allowing just two hits and a run in four innings.
In the second game of the double header another freshman in Shane McCarthy got his first taste of Big East baseball. The freshman from Fair Haven, N.J., came in a relief effort in the seventh, allowing a pair of hits and a run in the team’s 9-5 loss. Freshman Chris Morris would come in relief for his fellow classmate in the eighth before getting the hook after facing four batters, allowing a three runs.
Freshman also made their mark off the mound, including center fielder Ryan Ramiz, who also saw his first bit of action in the team’s second game of Saturday’s double header. The Freehold, N.J., native went 1-for-4 while adding five put outs in a solid debut, filling in for junior Derek Jenkins who was hit in the face in the team’s third inning of the team’s 10-4 loss earlier that day.
Sheppard said Jenkins is progressing, but remains day-to-day after receiving four stitches.
The Pirates struggles versus the Tar Heels weren’t just on the bump as they combined for just 24-for-102 on the weekend. Senior Sal Annunziata went 2-for-12 in the series and said the team is learning from the bad.
“Our pitching and our defense needs to come full circle,” Annunziata said. “I thought as many outs as we had offensively, we hit well.”
He added the team is just one big hit from finding its confidence.
“Once that one big hit comes around, guys will start loosening up and play confident,” he said. “It’s a process, but as long as we have our confidence I think we’ll be alright.”
Old Dominion (0-3) enters the series also winless after dropping three straight at the Coastal Carolina Invitational, blanked by Coastal Carolina 4-0 on Feb. 13, then falling 5-2 to Maryland on Feb. 14 and being downed 8-6 on Feb. 15 at the hands of Canisius.
The Pirates will look to find their hitting from the likes of Annunziata and Kyle Grimm (4-for-11 on the weekend) to propel them as well as grow consistency in their rotation. Luke Cahill is expected to be the starter on Friday to open the series.
The blue and white open their series at Old Dominion on Friday, Feb. 20 at 3 p.m. The two will face off again on Saturday, Feb. 21 at 2 p.m. and conclude on Sunday, Feb. 22 at 1 p.m.