Offense sparks for baseball team in midweek tune-up

by Gayne Kalustian | 4/23/14 4:27pm

4-24-14-sports-baseball-kate-herrington
4.24.14.sports.baseball
by Kate Herrington and Kate Herrington / The Dartmouth

Two explosive innings carried the Dartmouth baseball team to a 16-8 victory over visiting Division II St. Anselm College on Tuesday.

The successful day brought with it a new Dartmouth varsity record for co-captain Jeff Keller ’14. Keller, already in the books with the most doubles in a single season (21), smashed the previous record for career doubles on Tuesday — held by Scott Shirrell ’04 — by hitting three two-baggers, bringing his current total to 53 with four games left in the regular season.

The record, co-captain Dustin Selzer ’14 said, demonstrates the consistency Keller possesses as a player.

“They’ve been playing baseball here for 150 years,” he said. “A record like that shows that he’s not having a good game or a good season but that he’s an outstanding player.”

Keller currently has the highest batting average on the team among starters with a .308 mark despite a recent dry spell at the plate.

Describing his recent struggles, Keller noted that the pressure that builds after a few tough at bats can lead him to swing at pitches he shouldn’t.

“I’ve had a tough time getting going all year,” he said, “but I get up and think, ‘Today will be the day.’ Believing you’ll turn around and kind of get going again is the key.”

Keller moved into the leadoff slot Saturday night after the team dropped a doubleheader in Providence R.I, and scored four of Dartmouth’s runs against the Hawks on Tuesday despite coming out of the game after the bottom of the sixth.

Third baseman Nick Lombardi ’15, the second highest slugger on the team this season, crushed his second career grand slam in the fifth over the netting in left. With 21 runs batted in on the season, Lombardi is tied now with designated hitter Joe Purritano ’16 for most on the team. The grand slam and landslide victory couldn’t have come at a more critical time in the season, Lombardi said.

“It’s always good to get confidence up before the weekend,” he said. “It helps you have faith in your swing.”

The majority of Dartmouth’s 16 runs — the most the team has scored in a single game this season — came in the third and fifth innings when six and eight runs, respectively, put the game out of arm’s reach for St. Anselm.

Second baseman Thomas Roulis ’15 brought home four runners in addition to scoring two of his own runs over the course of the game, while Michael Ketchmark ’17, starting his first home game in left, notched three hits in five at bats, scoring twice.

Six Hawks and four Big Green hurlers saw the mound in the game, giving up 30 hits between the 10 of them, 17 from Dartmouth hitters. Yet the eight runs scored by St. Anselm aren’t a reason for concern, catcher Matt MacDowell ’15 said.

“I think we tend to play a little more laxed when we know that we have a little bit more run support,” he said. “It makes us play a little more loosely and trade runs for outs.”

The manner in which the runs were scored — in clustered spurts of two or three innings instead of spread evenly across the frames — shows the Big Green’s scoring pattern this season, because the contagious effect of hitting gets the order going in random innings, Selzer said.

The team should work on improving consistency, he said.

With only four games left in the regular season, the Big Green must tweak small points to have a chance at winning the Red Rolfe Division. Dartmouth sits two games behind Yale University, so the Big Green must win the majority of its four-game set with the Crimson while getting help from Yale’s opponent, Brown University. Yale hasn’t won the Division title since 1994 while the entire Big Green roster has never experienced a second-place finish.

“It would be uncharted territory for everyone on the team right now,” MacDowell said. “[Being Red Rolfe Division Champions] is something we take a lot of pride in, but that’s just another reason all the pressure is on Yale.”

Meanwhile, in the Lou Gehrig Division, the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University are now tied for first place with 13 wins each. The teams will go head to head in a pair of doubleheaders this weekend for the chance to host the Championship series against the Red Rolfe Champions.

But with all the “what if” situations that could determine the fate of both Divisions, players, Selzer said, are focused on their practices, their roster and their own games.

“We’re not in complete control of the season at this point,” he said, “but we’re going to practice hard, play loose and aggressive and just have fun and enjoy it. This is my last regular season Ivy weekend I know I have to enjoy it, and the team has to have some fun.”