Winter Haven: Spring break is a release from the pressures of school for any college student. For a spring athlete, spring break is a chance to travel with their team to a beautiful place and have fun playing the game that they love. There’s pressure, though.
For the Rutgers- Camden baseball team, the trip was far from relaxing. With very high expectations going down to Florida, they won the first two games, but lost eight in a row, returning home with a 2-8 record that has dug them into an early season hole that they must get out of ASAP. If they look to keep their national championship aspirations, they need some wins.
The trip started out on a great note as they swept two games versus nationally-ranked Amherst University. Right Fielder Zach Ellin lead off the first game with an infield single by hustling down the line from the left side of the plate and beating the throw by the shortstop. This was an indication as how the day would go for the Raptors.
Raptor Ace Jeff singer gave a great performance lasting five innings, only letting up three earned runs and striking out three Amherst batters. Freshman Pitcher Carter Fichter came in relief in his first ever collegiate game and completely shut down the Amherst bats, keeping the Raptors in the game for 3 2/3 innings while only giving up four hits and striking out four.
This game would come down to the wire, with shortstop Pedro Perez stepping to the plate with two outs and runners on first and second. Perez took a 2-2 changeup and sent it into the left- center gap for a double to knock in both runs and give the Raptors 5-4 lead. Closer Kyle Gaff came in the last inning and saved the game for the Scarlet Raptors to give them their first win of the season.
The second game of the doubleheader was much like the first, down to the wire. Junior pitcher Billy Jackson had a strong performance on the mound pitching 6 1/3 innings out of a seven-inning game, giving up only four hits and no earned runs. Kyle Gaff would come in again and shut the door on the game with his second save in two games. The fifth inning would prove to be their “Raptor” inning as Senior outfielder Adam Bartholomew, who hit in the designated hitter slot, would prove to be the difference as his go-ahead single scored Bobby Romano and Zach Ellin to give the Raptors a 2-1 lead. They would score another in the 6th inning to give them a 3-1 cushion and would win the game 3-2.
Unfortunately, this would be the Raptors’ only highlight down in beautiful Winter Haven, Florida.
The Raptors would go into a major offensive slump the rest of the trip as it seemed that they left all of their bats at home in Camden. Facing three of the top 10 teams in the country over this last stretch of eight games, they couldn’t find any ways to score runs as they collectively went a staggering 25 innings without scoring a run during one stretch of games.
This proved to be the ultimate difference in their trip and the reason why they would come back home 2-8. All of these games, including their last game against defending national champions Wisconsin-Whitewater were very close, but it was the lack of any offensive pop at the plate mixed in with defensive woes that would doom the Raptors. Their final game did prove to be somewhat of a bright spot and something to build off of as they broke out of their offensive slump and put up 7 runs, however, Wisconsin- Whitewater also brought their offensive intensity and put up an 8 spot to win the game by 1.
Coming back home, the Raptors are hitting a dismal .209 at the plate while their opponents are hitting .310. The only player hitting over .300 is Sophomore Joe Brooks at a .343 mark. A main factor in their lack of offensive could be the fact that the team struck out 63 times over the 10 games and only had a .321 on base percentage. With a lack of runners getting on base on top of the fact that rarely anyone is hitting doesn’t equal good success for any baseball club.
With a 2-8 record, the time to turn things around is now. It’s early in the season so the Raptors still have a good chance of doing the great things that they expected to do, but it will take a big change to do so. Maybe it was just too nice down in Florida to play well. Hopefully the cold weather will wake up the Raptors bats and get them into gear as they travel to Johns Hopkins for their first game back where they look to begin a new season, one that they hope will be much better than what they showed down in paradise.
We’ll just chalk it up to the fact that it was spring break.