Consistency, hot hitting needed for success

By The Beacon | March 20, 2014 2:25am
Junior Michael Lucarelli swings at a pitch in a game against UC Irvine earlier this season. Photo by Parker Shoaff

By Cassie Sheridan |

The turning of the cherry blossoms and the raucous cheers coming from Joe Etzel Field can mean only one thing; baseball season is well underway. The pilots kicked off WCC conference play over spring break against Loyola Marymount coming up short in all three games despite close scores. The team has an overall record of 5-15, kicking off the season with a big win against defending national champion UCLA then struggling in subsequent games. After the loss to LMU over break, the Pilots suffered another heartbreaker to University of Washington on Tuesday falling 7-6 after making a 6-run comeback.

“We have had a lot of issues so far that need to be corrected both from a hitting standpoint and from the mound,” head coach Chris Sperry said. Sperry coached his 800th game for the Pilots on March 2.

“The approach of our hitting has seriously improved over the past week but we are still struggling for consistency in our opening pitches.” Sperry said.

Last season, the Pilots finished with an overall record of 18-36 and a WCC record of 8-16. The team suffered many injuries throughout the season making key players, including pitcher Travis Radke, who was a 2014 all WCC preseason selection, unable to perform. This season, injuries have already forced players into roles they were not originally planning for which has caused the team to make several adjustments.

“Our top two projected pitchers are out with injuries and we are having to adjust to that reality,” Sperry said. “Against Bakersfield, a couple weeks ago, we had strong consistent games. So that type of performance is what we are working for right now.”

The Pilots still have eight conference series to play in the coming weeks. An integral part of their success will be not allowing a lot of early runs, something they have struggled with in past games. On Tuesday against University of Washington, all seven of the Huskies’ runs were scored in the first two innings and against Loyola Marymount on Sunday, the team gave up four runs in the first inning forcing them to play down for the remainder of the game.

“I think the way we are playing you can tell we are kind of tense,” outfielder Chet Thompson said. “The biggest thing for us right now is to just relax. We can play with anyone and we still have a lot of games to play.”

Currently, two standouts are Caleb Whalen, Portland’s top hitter with a .283 average, two HR’s, four doubles, a triple, and seven RBI’s. Freshman pitcher Austin Kelly was recently awarded 2013 Oregon prep baseball player of the year.

“We definitely see where we need to be,” Sperry said. “We just haven’t been able to quite get there yet.”

The Pilots’ next home game is against WCC rival St Mary’s tomorrow at 3 p.m.