The good news for the Seton Hall baseball team is that the Pirates enter the third weekend of Big East play with a 4-2 record in the league and will host three of their final four league series. The bad news? The Hall’s offense has been on and off, and the Pirates are looking for better starting pitching. While it was a midweek contest that really doesn’t impact SHU at this point, Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to Monmouth was another display of the Pirates’ offensive woes. The team left 11 on base as a whole and could not take advantage of a strong eight-inning performance from left-hander Anthony Pacillo. Over the weekend at St. John’s, the Pirates’ offensive inconsistencies were present on Friday and Saturday. The opportunities were on the table both days for SHU, but the team only combined for 11 hits and five runs. While Seton Hall scored four runs in Saturday’s loss, they only compiled six hits. The floodgates opened in Sunday’s 19-4 victory, but the bats just can’t seem to figure themselves out. Only one everyday player for the Pirates, Kyle Grimm, is hitting over .300. The key to regain an offensive rhythm is for the dynamic duo of power hitters D.J. Ruhlman and Sal Annunziata to start rolling. While they have combined for seven home runs this season, the two have struck out 56 times. While the bullpen offered a bright spot last weekend, the starting rotation struggled on Friday and Saturday. Sophomore Zach Prendergast and freshman Shane McCarthy went just four and three innings, respectively, in each of their starts. The tough transition for this year’s team is that there really is not a dominant ace in the rotation. Big East Preseason Co-Pitcher of the Year Luke Cahill made three starts early on in the season but has not been able to live up to the hype. This weekend, Butler will pay a visit to Owen T. Carroll Field. The Bulldogs did not play in Big East action last week, but were swept in the first weekend of April by St. John’s. For a Seton Hall offense that is ailing, this weekend may be just what the doctor ordered as Butler boasts the worst team earned run average in the Big East at 5.62. But, for what the Bulldogs lack in pitching, they make up for with the bats. Butler leads the conference with a team batting average of .283. This weekend’s showdown will feature a battle between two infielders who know how to get it done at the plate and with the leather. While Grimm leads the Pirates with a batting average of .367, Butler second baseman Cole Malloy is fourth in the Big East, hitting .368. Friday night’s game gets underway at 6 p.m. at Owen T. Carroll Field. Follow @SetonianSports for the in-game updates.
Sara Haefeli possessed what it took defensively to be the starting center fielder for the Seton Hall softball team last year. The problems lied at the plate. Haefeli’s junior season was her first as a scholarship player for the Pirates, and it was tough one offensively. The right-hander hit just .212 at the dish. But, Haefeli has been The Hall’s most improved player in the 2015 campaign thus far. The senior is hitting .313 and is second on the team with a .717 slugging percentage. She has hammered 11 home runs, which is second in the Big East, making her a player of the year candidate in the league. Haefeli is satisfied with her progress, and the keys to her success are no secret. Q: What has been the key to transitioning from a tough junior year to what has been an outstanding senior season? A: “Sheer determination. I have the mindset that a pitcher can’t beat me when I step up to the plate. Last year, I’ll admit, mentally I was not completely right. But I’ve put it behind me. I came to an epiphany that if I play my game, good things are going to happen. I’m just trying to do me, to be Sara Haefeli” Q: Do you feel like you can hit just about anything right now? A: “Absolutely. It’s about having a little bit of an edge. I’ve tried to have some more cockiness at the plate. Yes, I always want to stay humble. But there’s something about being aggressive too. Our senior class has tried to create more of that culture this season.” Q: What makes you think this team can do something special in the postseason? A: “We know we only reached 14 wins last season. That was hard to swallow, but what makes me think that this season is special is that this team meshes both on and off the field. It all comes down to focus. We have to mentally have the will to win. This team has that type of an edge this season. There’s more of a toughness in place.” Q: What has Coach Smith done for you as a player throughout your time at Seton Hall? A: “She’s set a foundation for this program and she’s focused on doing the little things in order to win. One thing that Coach (Smith) has established that was not in place with the program before she got here is that we pick each other up. It may seem so little, but she’s created a culture. Every player realizes that there’s a lot more going on than what they do individually in a game. The other thing that Coach (Smith) has done is she believes in me. She respects me. And that’s made me want to play really hard for her. I think my fellow teammates can agree. She lights a fire under us. That’s made me a better player.” Q: How can you be a legitimate postseason contender? A: “Yogi Berra said it, “The game is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.” We have to be ready mentally to win games. If we don’t do that, we’re not going to have success. It’s as simple as that. And it starts this weekend.” At 4-4 and in third in the Big East entering a crucial road weekend in league play, the Pirates will take on the Creighton Bluejays, losers of three in a row, this weekend in Omaha, Neb. Go to thesetonian.com for complete updates on The Hall as the blue and white are in pursuit of a postseason berth.
The Associated Press
Katherine Cahalin/Staff Photographer