Baseball team enjoys a strong start to the season

by Cecelia Shao | 3/6/13 11:00pm

by Christina Chen and Christina Chen / The Dartmouth

"We are extremely pleased and proud of the team's performance," head coach Bob Whalen said. "Even though our entire preseason practice was indoors, we played strong fundamental baseball. The pitchers threw strikes, the players swung bats aggressively and overall, we played well in close games against good teams."

Much like the Big Green's trip to the Dominican Republic over winter break, the chance to play in the Classic proved valuable.

"The accommodations that the University of Minnesota provided for us were amazing and there were a lot of family and friends at the Metrodome to support us," outfielder Nick Ruppert '16 said."It was an incredible experience and we definitely came out ready to play, got on top early and kept playing hard."

Five members of the Big Green team, including left-hand pitcher Kyle Hunter '13, first baseman Dustin Selzer '14, shortstop Matt Parisi '15, second baseman Thomas Roulis '15 and Ruppert earned spots on the Dairy Queen All-Tournament team.

Third baseman Nick Lombardi '15, who hit .500 with five RBIs in the three games, took home the Silver Stick Award as the MVP of the Dairy Queen Classic. His most impressive performance came in the opener against the Golden Gophers, when he hit two doubles and a homerun while driving in four runs.

The Big Green secured a 10-3 victory in the game, their strongest of the weekend.

The team excelled by putting players in a scoring position, converting and getting them to the home base. Lombardi drove in four runs with two doubles and a home run, while Ruppert and catcher Matt MacDowell '15 each had two doubles and Selzer, Roulis and Parisi all came in with two singles.

For Cole Sulser '12, a first-team All-Ivy pitcher in 2011, the Gopher opener marked his first appearance on the pitching mound since undergoing elbow reconstructive surgery 21 months ago. His long recovery served him well as he dominated the Gopher lineup.

"The team did all the little things right: we threw to the right bases, the pitchers hit their spots, the defense played flawlessly," Lombardi said. "We really dominated their lineup."

The energy was different in the game against Northern Illinois, where Dartmouth fought hard for a 1-0 victory. Hunter shut out Illinois for five innings on one hit, one walk and 10 strikeouts, and outfielder Ryan Toimil '14 provided the only run of the game.

"Although we shut NIU out and pitched very well, we were chasing the pitches and hit balls that went right into gloves," Ruppert said.

After a slow start in the third game, where they trailed the Utes in the third inning by 2-1, the team regained control with timely hitting and pushing to get runners on base and ultimately jumped to a 5-2 lead in the seventh inning that Utah could not overcome.

"Utah has a different style from the teams in our league because they're a member of the PAC 12," Whalen said. "Playing against them was a great opportunity for the team to learn how to defend against various types of offensive strategies."

Coming out of the Classic, the Big Green hopes to earn their sixth consecutive Rolfe Division title this season.

"The biggest thing we need to work on is being consistent from start to finish and get used to showing up and playing well," said outfielder and co-captain Jeffrey Keller '14.

At this point, Dartmouth's strong standings predict a cohesiveness that could place them on the path to victories in the Rolfe division, the Ivy League championship, regionals and serials.

"The chemistry that we have on the team is really strong, and there's a big difference in terms of togetherness from last year because this year there aren't really any cliques," Lombardi said. "It helps a lot that we hang out outside the field because we understand each other and pick each other up after mistakes."

Whalen enters his 24th season with the Big Green. Strong and consistent leadership from captains and coaches plays a critical role in the team's success.

"There are a lot of adjustments that need to be made from high school baseball to college baseball," Ruppert said. "The captains, whether it's Jeff for the position players or Cole for the pitchers, have really been leaders on both sides of the game and helped us learn to adjust to different situations."

Dartmouth will be on the road for most of March, traveling to Florida for eight days after finals to play 10 games at the RussMatt Invitational. They will host a home game on March 27 against Siena College.