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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 23, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Sports

Blue and Gold focus on consistent play

With nearly half the season over and sitting at .500, the baseball team is disappointed with where it stands, but knows there is enough time left to reach its preseason goal of qualifying for the NCAA tournament.

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Second baseman and shortstop Matt Keller makes contact during game one of a doubleheader against Stevens Institute of Technology on Sunday at Freeman Field. Ithaca hit .369 in the four-game series. JAKE LIFSCHULTZ/THE ITHACAN

With so many ups and downs this season — including a three-game winning streak to open the season followed immediately by a six-game losing streak on their road trip to California — the Blue and Gold are still looking to hit their stride and put together a sustained stretch of winning baseball.

A unanimous pick by Empire 8 coaches to take the conference title, the Bombers currently sit at 3–3 in the conference, two games behind first place St. John Fisher College, with eight league games still to play. Of those four, two are against the Cardinals at Freeman Field in the next few weeks. If the Bombers win the conference, they are guaranteed a spot in the tournament.

Senior captain Dave Ahonen said while the Bombers have been inconsistent, they know there is still time to turn their season around.

“We just haven’t been able to put together a stretch where we’re playing complete games,” Ahonen said. “We’ll get good pitching one game but not hit or hit one game and not pitch very well.”

Ahonen said some of the players, including himself, get too impatient. Instead of simply letting the game come to them, he said they have been chasing pitches in the dirt and pitching around hitters.

The Bombers had two excellent outings in the two wins in this weekend’s series against Stevens Institute of Technology. The pitching staff struggled in the two losses however, allowing the 6–17 Ducks to score a combined 18 runs.

Junior Matt Keller, who had four RBIs during the weekend and is hitting .386 this season, said the bad weather and the long layoffs between games have not allowed the team to get in a rhythm so far this year.

“It’s tough practicing outside then having to go back to the gym because of the weather,” Keller said. “We haven’t taken as many ground balls or been able to work on certain situations as much as we would have liked, but that’s no excuse.”

Keller said the team has been hitting in the indoor cages more often to try and cut down on their long swings so they will get better timing.

Senior Trevor Wolf said while the weekend series was disappointing, there were stretches where the team showed signs of its potential.

“It was rough because those are games that we expect to win against a team we feel that we’re better than,” Wolf said. “We rebounded from the loss on the first day well, but we’ve had trouble playing well back-to-back games.”

The South Hill squad will look to get back on track when they play a four-game series at Utica, who are dead last in the Empire 8.

Wolf said the team is motivated coming off the losses, but needs to carry that momentum into each game for the rest of the season. He said the team couldn’t afford to get complacent if they want to win the conference and go deep into the playoffs.

“After games where we get beat, everyone is up and ready to get after it and play hard-nosed baseball,” Wolf said. “It’s bringing that mentality to every game and not being satisfied with one win, but sustaining that level of play.”