First we apologize for not going over this weekend's series with NC State and tonight's preview vs Jawja. I'm the only one that does baseball here and I've been down for the count the last few days and weekends will be busy for the next month. There will be a preview and recap for the next series if time allows.
There are a myriad of issues that have hampered us in the last few years and it is showing up this year. I will point out that we have played a pretty tough schedule so far in baseball, but that doesn't include NC State and it definitely doesn't include Eastern Michigan or PC to whom we lost earlier. As many of you know and understand, there are things in baseball games that just happen and you're going to lose a few here and there that you have no business losing. However, the play I see on the field doesn't indicate to me that things are "just happening" to cause the losses. We are not playing to the level this team is capable of right now.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I didn't think Scott Weismann was pitching like a #1. He still isn't. It looks to me that he's gotten worse as the bats have been deadened. I rarely get to watch the Friday night games now but from what i'm seeing his command is faltering and his pitches are up in the zone. I haven't been able to spot a mechanical issue (e.g. understriding, dropping the arm, etc.). If he doesn't start generating some ground balls to get himself out of trouble more often, this is going to be a very bad season for him. Pepicelli has had a full year and a half to familiarize himself with the mechanics of his pitchers and if there is a mechanical issue he should have Weismann doing better than he is. Baseball is not a sport where I just blame the coaches but there must be a better explanation for Scott's issues.
The rest of the pitching has not been so great either. Alex Frederick was a guy we thought would be a stopper, either as a guy to put out fires in critical situations or as the closer. He hasn't been either. Dominic Leone was someone we expected to be the #2 or #3 and he's been injured. Kevin Brady pitched like a #1 for the first few weeks and an elbow issue has kept him out this month. He won't be back for a bit longer. Mike Kent has been out. Scott Firth was awful to start the year and has come on lately. David Haselden has been like last year -- either really good or just meh. Will Lamb was our #3 starter last year and worked on his hitting all offseason, and now leaves pitches right over the plate. He and Joseph Moorefield are really our only LHPs, and JoMo hasn't been stellar himself.
While the bulk of the staff has been injured or just off, young guys like Matt Campbell and Kevin Pohle have been pretty good, and Jonathan Meyer has done well too. Even Justin Sarratt, who has really only one good pitch, has been good. He's either terrible or awesome.
I don't know if its Pepicelli's problem for their issues or just Jack being Jack and messing with heads, but some of these guys should be doing better than they are. They have the talent. The first step in my mind is getting the rotation down pat and picking another #1 starter. Its hard to win a series with the #1 having an ERA over 6.50. I think I'd send Haselden out there at the moment, but I'm not confident in sending out a freshman and none of the rest seem to be mentally ready to handle it either.
Key position injuries have killed us too. John Hinson had a concussion. Brad Miller broke his finger. Thats two big bats in our lineup. Their backups are now freshmen. I'm not quite ready to pass any judgement on the new hitting coach, I think LeCroy is doing fine right now considering.
And finally the defense, which is Jack Leggett's problem. If a problem persists year after year I do put it on him. Last year we knew Stolz, Hinson, Epps, and Miller were terrible. This year Stolz, Hinson, and Miller are still terrible fielders. Epps just doesn't hustle so I don't care for him. Steve Wilkerson is taking Mike Freeman's spot at 2B sometimes, and though he should be good, he's just not transitioning to college that well. Hinson has 8 errors and an .814 fielding pct. Stolz has 7 with a .905 and Miller 5 with a .915. Wilkerson has 5 with an .875. Steve I can forgive but these other guys are upperclassmen who've been just downright shitty in the field. Baseball games are only going to get closer with the BBCOR bats in college, and close games come down to fundamental defense, and ours is awful. I thought before the season started that we'd miss Mike Freeman more than Parker, and right now I still believe that is true.
So now what? Who is going to improve and get it together? I doubt the defense gets considerably better this year. When Hinson and Miller are back at 100% this lineup is pretty potent with hitting talent. Phil Pohl and Spencer Kieboom are both outstanding and I still believe Shaffer will be a high pick one day. Some of the kids like Dominic Attanasio and Jon McGibbon are going to be good hitters here. Hopefully they'll pick up even more when the weather gets hotter and balls start flying.
But if the pitching doesn't get hot, we go nowhere in the Tournament.