Baseball returns winless from opening series against Texas A&M

by Gayne Kalustian | 3/3/15 6:01pm

You can always tell when it’s the first weekend of a baseball team’s season. The pitchers’ ERAs are largely goose eggs or more similar to their own shoe sizes. The batting averages of a few hitters are impressive, some almost unreal, while others are closer to BACs after a few games of pong. Drawing from just about the smallest sample size you can, the numbers often feel wild and erratic. So what can be done to make sense of the team’s 0-3 series against No. 14 Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, this past weekend?

“Duncan [Robinson ’16] pitched really well Friday night and Dustin [Shirley ’18] had a good weekend at second base,” captain Louis Concato ’14 said. “I thought for the most part we did a good job defensively. We did a lot of good things throughout the weekend, but there’s always room to improve. Obviously, we would have liked to have won all the games we played or even some of them, but there were some important things that I think we can build off of.”

Playing in his home state of Texas, Robinson dominated the mound, tossing five scoreless innings in the Friday night opener, allowing just two hits against 17 batters. Former co-captain Dustin Selzer ’14, a Big Green alum who hails from the Lone Star state, attended all three games in College Station. He said he’s looking forward to an incredible season from Robinson.

“I think [Robinson] is going to have a monstrous season,” Selzer said “He’s just a really, really good pitcher, and he’s a year better, a year smarter [and] a year more mature.”

Robinson helped guarantee the Big Green was more than competitive against Texas A&M on Friday night, leaving after his fifth frame with the team holding on to a three-run lead against the Aggies. The lead came in the first inning, sparked by shortstop Matt Parisi ’15, who singled up the middle in the team’s first at-bat of the season. After being moved over to second by centerfielder Nick Ruppert ’16, Parisi was batted in on a double down the left line, cracked off the bat of third baseman Nick Lombardi ’15. Two more runs in the third inning, scored by Ruppert and Lombardi and achieved partly through errors and a walk, rounded out the team’s lead. Chris Burkholder ’17 came out of the bullpen hot in the sixth inning to replace Robinson, but surrendered four runs in the eighth off two two-run homeruns. He was pulled with two outs left and relieved by Sam Fichthorn ’18.

Finishing Friday’s game was the first of Fichthorn’s two appearances in the series, with the second coming when he pitched the final three frames of Sunday’s lop-sided 10-4 match. Sunday’s loss for the Big Green was decided much earlier in the game, as the Aggies had managed to bring home 10 runs by the end of the fifth. Fichthorn threw three shutout innings on Sunday, collecting seven ground outs and allowing three hits — all singles.

“[Fichthorn] did really well,” head coach Bob Whalen said. “You prepare kids the best you can but you also look for situations — particularly early in the careers — where you’re pretty sure they can be successful.”

While Fichthorn didn’t see much time on the mound on Friday night, Whalen said that the pitcher’s performance was what convinced him to give Fichthorn another chance on Sunday to show what he could do pitching over a longer time in the game.

“[Fichthorn] came in, good delivery, stayed within his delivery and threw strikes,” Whalen said. “[Friday] was his day — his arm was well rested and he was fine. I wanted to give him the opportunity on Sunday because the opportunity arose in the game which was kind of a low leverage situation, and I thought getting him back on the mound again would help his development.”

It’s important for the Big Green, who is looking for reliable starters to eat innings and relievers who can clench wins or close games, to seek and identify talent on the mound during the preseason. Fichthorn, who threw just 47 pitches across three days and 3.2 innings, has the potential to be an important player for the Big Green. The pitcher has not had the opportunity to showcase his endurance, but with only one weekend behind the team, more opportunities will present themselves.

Concato came out and posted a 3.60 ERA for the weekend — exactly the same one he ended with last year— as if in a nod to his consistency on the mound.

Playing the place of injured co-captain Thomas Roulis ’15 was Shirley. While, as Selzer pointed out, “no one can replace Roulis,” Shirley showed the ability to make some defensive plays and could emerge as the team’s second baseman.

“Shirley played second base, a position that he’d never played in high school,” Whalen said. “He was only in there a couple of times in the preseason because we didn’t anticipate that being a position that we were going to need. Then he goes out, and he plays great. These things happen and you [have to] roll with it.”

The Big Green, will be returning to the South to play in Port Charlotte, Florida ,this weekend. The team will take on Indiana, Northwestern, Ball State and Bucknell Universitites in Florida Friday through Sunday at the Snowbird Classic.