Rams seeking turnaround for second half of season

Rams seeking turnaround for second half of season
April 07
00:00 2016
Photos by Craig T. Greenlee
Kanoa Hironaka of the Rams pitched a two-hit shut-out over Virginia State last Saturday.

Mental errors and sporadic bats are the key reasons why Winston-Salem State’s baseball team is hovering around the .500 mark so far this season. As of April 4, the Rams were 16-16.

There are signs, however, that the Rams (16-16 as of April 4) are starting to pick up momentum. WSSU went on the road and had three wins in a four-game set at Virginia State last weekend.

For now, though, the won-loss record is somewhat surprising. That’s because the Rams were slotted 21st in the pre-season NCAA Division II national rankings com-piled by Collegiate Baseball newspaper. WSSU is coming off a record-setting year in which it finished up at 42-15 and fell two games short of advancing to the Division II College World Series. It was the deepest playoff run ever for a CIAA team.

“We’re making too many mental mistakes,” said coach Kevin Ritsche. “Probably our biggest struggle right now is that we’re not playing well offensively. It’s tough on your defense when you’re only scoring two or three runs a game. It puts a lot of pressure on our pitching staff, which for the most part is doing their job (3.92 ERA). We just have to step things up offensively.”

In a 7-3 loss to Lenoir-Rhyne last week, there were three innings in which the Rams came up empty with runners in scoring position. That’s been an on-going trend that started on opening day of the season.

“From the very first game when we opened up with Millersville, we had guys in scoring position in five of the nine innings,” said Ritsche. “We failed to do the job and get those guys in. If we could’ve gotten one or two hits in those situations, we’d be a 20-win team instead of a 12-win team.”

With no home games scheduled for April, the Rams figure to learn a lot about their team identity over the next three weeks. They do play Saint Augustine’s four times as the designated home team, but those games will be played Asheboro. Ritsche is eager to see if playing on the road for an extended period of time will help his team in the coming weeks.

“I’m looking for us to do things a little bit better on somebody else’s field,” he said. “It comes down to simple things like our hitters not getting down 0-2 (in the count) at the plate, and our pitchers not going down 2-0.

“Our approach in those situations is something we’ve been working on, to try and get our guys in a

better situation to be more successful. Over the first half of the season, we haven’t done things the way the game is supposed to be played.”

In spite of the Rams sluggish first half, Ritsche is confident that his team will make amends in the coming weeks. Much of his optimism is based on the quality of competition that WSSU has faced in the first two months of the season.

“We have over 20 games left (in the regular season),” he said. “And I feel like we’re going to win 17 or 18 of those games. We’re done with the hardest part. After the first half, we were a little below .500 against a pretty difficult schedule. In our upcoming games, we have a real good opportunity to make a few mistakes against some of the teams and it won’t hurt us so bad. With the teams we played over the first half, when you make a mistake, they make you pay.”

“So, I’m confident that for the remainder of the season, we have an opportunity to start doing some things right. Once we get the ball rolling again, winning will become contagious again.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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