Members of the University of Richmond baseball team said they were hoping to get back to their winning ways when they begin an eight-game home stand at Pitt Field tomorrow afternoon.
The Spiders started the regular season with seven-consecutive wins, but after being swept by St. Louis University last weekend and falling to the No. 2 ranked University of North Carolina yesterday, they have lost eight games in a row.
"Our offense was carrying us early," Richmond head coach Mark McQueen said. "The schedule was a little easier. ... Then, we got to a point where the offense went into a little bit of a slump."
This offensive slump may have been a product of the early March snowstorm, which caused the cancellation of three home games and forced the team to move practice indoors, junior third baseman Cameron Brown said.
"I think [the storm] had a pretty big impact," Brown said. "We were inside. It hurts, especially offensively."
The storm also hurt the team's early season rhythm, senior closer Brian Alas said. The Spiders had been undefeated before the snow.
"We had a lot of momentum coming out of the gate," Alas said. "Baseball is a game of momentum."
The team has also played five extra-inning games this season, including three in five days between March 24 and March 28. Richmond won four of the five games, but the long games took the team out of a normal pitching rotation, McQueen said.
"We played four of five [extra inning games] in one stretch and most weren't just one extra inning," he said. "Once we got through it, it kind of put our pitching out of whack."
Though the team has had its ups and downs this season, it has benefited from the steady play of three veteran players.
Senior right fielder and team captain Ryan Metzroth, sophomore first baseman Mike Mergenthaler and Brown have combined for 15 home runs and 70 runs batted in.
Brown, who was forced to redshirt last season after being hit by a pitch and suffering a broken finger, leads the team in batting average, home runs and runs scored.
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"It seems like if he's not stroking a double he's taking a walk," McQueen said of Brown. "He's also played the best he's ever played defensively at third."
Mergenthaler, who is second on the team in home runs and RBI, played every game during his freshman season, which makes him one of the more experienced players on a team with only four seniors.
"He's been Mr. Consistent," McQueen said. "He's just a quality hitter."
Metzroth, the only senior on the team who is not a pitcher, leads the team in RBI and said he, Brown and Mergenthaler could have a big impact on the team's offensive success.
"We've been the 3-4-5 hitters [in the line-up] all year," Metzroth said. "I think the coaches have us there to be the offensive leaders ... [by] starting rallies and keeping them going."
The Spiders have also seen success from Alas, who broke the Richmond career record for most saves earlier this season.
"Breaking the record was a blast," Alas said. "It was more of a testament to the team for putting me in the position [to earn saves]."
Richmond's young players have also played an important role during their first collegiate season.
Freshman infielder Adam McConnell is third on the team in batting average and second in runs scored. But even though the freshmen class is talented, the young team has gone through growing pains, McQueen said.
"I looked out on the field [against St. Louis] and we had six freshmen on the field," McQueen said. "We've got some really good freshmen and sophomores and they're going to be inconsistent."
The team has played nine of its last 10 games on the road and team members said they were excited to return to Pitt Field for the coming home stand.
"Coming home will make a huge difference, especially for the younger guys," Alas said. "We can stay in our routine. I think that's part of why we were consistent early [in the season]."
Because of the increase in academic work near the end of the semester, McQueen planned the schedule to try to accommodate his players as much as possible.
"I try not to do too much traveling in April," McQueen said. "We tried to make an effort to keep us close to home."
Six of the team's eight home games during the home stand will be Atlantic 10 conference games against the University of
Dayton and Duquesne University. Richmond is 3-6 during A-10 play this season, which puts them in tenth place in the 14-team conference. The top six teams at the end of the regular season qualify for the A-10 tournament.
After three weeks of conference play, no team has taken clear control of the league.
"There's not too much separation in the conference yet," Alas said. "Over the next couple weekends, we'll find out what kind of team we are."
Richmond will try to regain its early season momentum with a win against Dayton at 3 p.m. on Friday at Pitt Field.
"We try to take two out of three games every weekend," Alas said. "If we can do that, we'll be in a good position to make the tournament."
Contact staff writer Reilly Moore at email@example.com
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