After committing errors in each of its first 10 games, the baseball team may have finally found its starting lineup.
Ithaca was finally perfect defensively against nationally ranked Salisbury University on Sunday, despite losing the game by one run.
In the Bombers’ 2–9 start to the season, Head Coach George Valesente has used nine different lineups through just 11 games. The Bombers have had three different leadoff men and 15 different players in the starting lineup. But this is not something that Valesente wants to continue.
“Now we are set with what we are going to go with,” Valesente said. “I really hope we don’t juggle it around all season, but we aren’t scoring enough runs, obviously.”
The Bombers have averaged less than five runs per game and have committed a total of 25 errors in 11 games. The team’s inconsistencies both offensively and defensively have made it difficult for Valesente to find a starting lineup that works.
But Valesente said he was happy with the lineup he put together in the loss to Salisbury, as his team played a flawless game defensively, despite blowing a five-run lead. He said the infield is starting to get comfortable after the team had to adjust following senior Brian Grastorf’s decision not to play this season.
Grastorf was projected to be the starting shortstop in 2010. With his absence, the Bombers have had three different starters at shortstop this season — junior David Ahonen and sophomores Matt Keller and Russ Martens. Valesente said Grastorf’s absence created a new challenge for his infield.
“It changed the whole complexion of the infield,” Valesente said. “We are still getting comfortable in the infield. We have been giving teams four and five outs an inning. Good teams make you pay for those mistakes.”
No. 6 Salisbury was just one of the many good teams the Bombers have met through the early part of their season. While they did not make any mistakes defensively, the Bombers did blow a 5–0 lead, falling to the Sea Gulls by a final score of 7–6.
“Staying with [Salisbury] boosted our confidence, but we all felt that we let that one slip away,” Keller said. “We really had a chance to win that game. We were confident through the whole weekend, though. We know we can compete with any team.”
But knowing they can compete isn’t enough for Ahonen, who said the team has to take the next step soon.
“We have been saying we can hang with the best teams for the past couple weeks,” Ahonen said. “But at some point we’ve got to start winning games we are ahead in. We’ve got to find that killer mentality.”
If Ithaca is to turn the 2010 season around, it will mean finding that mentality in a hurry. The team opens conference play this coming weekend with two games against Empire 8 foe Stevens Institute of Technology on Friday and Saturday. If the Bombers want to have any hope at a postseason berth, their performance in regional play will determine whether they are worthy of an at-large bid to the NCAA playoffs.
“If we are going to make regionals, these are the games we’ve got to win,” Ahonen said. “We know our postseason life remains in the games coming up.”