WSSU baseball team is on a roll

WSSU baseball team is on a roll
April 02
00:00 2015
(Above: Photo by Craig T. Greenlee Eric Corlett (5-1) is one of WSSU’s top relief pitchers.)

At the start of last week, Winston-Salem State’s baseball team was on a roll. The Rams had a seven-game win streak going and were slotted 27th in the NCAA Division II national rankings.

The rest of the week wasn’t so fruitful. WSSU suffered back-to-back losses for the first time this season. The Rams were victimized in the late stages of both games, which were played at BB&T Ballpark.

Winston-Salem State (22-8, 7-1 CIAA) took a two-run lead over Lenior-Rhyne in the eighth inning, but allowed five runs in the ninth in a 14-11 loss on March 24. The following day, the Rams gave 14th-ranked Catawba all it could handle in a contest that required extra innings. The outcome was decided in the 10th when WSSU surrendered six runs in a 7-1 defeat. For the game, the Rams were held to four hits.

“Lenoir-Rhyne and Catawba are very good,” said Coach Kevin Ritsche of WSSU. “You can’t afford to make mistakes against teams of that caliber. If you do, it comes back to haunt you. What it all came down to was us not being able to finish. We’ve been in our share of games where we’ve been the team to make the come back and win.”

Winston-Salem State’s bats came alive in a big way against Lenoir-Rhyne. Trailing 7-1 in the bottom of the fourth, the Rams erupted for six runs on six hits.

Conner Andrus opened with a solo home run to left field and Colby Keene singled to drive in another run. With two outs, Des Roberts slapped an opposite-field, three-run double down the left-field line. Roberts raced home to tie the game 7-7 on Dylan Dombrowskas’s two-base hit.

With the game tied 9-9 in the eighth, the Rams broke the stalemate on Andrus’s bases-loaded single to center. Chris Kane followed up with an RBI-sacrifice fly to score Roberts from third base.

Entering the final month of the regular-season, Ritsche is concerned about run production. He realizes his team must show more consistency at the plate to enhance its chances of repeating as CIAA champs and making a return trip to the Division II playoffs.

“It’s important for us to be able to string together some hits so we can push some runs across the plate,” he said. “Doing so will keep us out of those situations where we’re forced to play from behind.”

Jacob Barber tops the Rams with a .429 batting average and Andrus has been a model of consistency. Andrus leads the team in hits with 36 and is second in batting average (.375) and RBIs (26).

Roberts, though, is on a hot streak. Prior to WSSU’s road game at Catawba on Wednesday, he was hitting .370, which included 11 extra-base hits and 19 RBIs. During a recent 10-game stretch from March 15-25, the senior left fielder hit .433 (13-for-30) and drove in eight runs.

“Over the past few weeks, Des has really turned it on,” said Ritsche. “Now that he’s completely recovery from last season’s hand injury, he’s gotten his timing back.”

Stand-out pitching propels WSSU. Ace right-hander Sam Burton (1.74 ERA) has given up 21 hits in 41 1/3 innings with 43 strike-outs and only 16 walks. Lefty Jordan Carlton has allowed 12 earned runs in 37 innings pitched (2.92 ERA).

Burton, who is 3-2, gets solid support from right-handers Eric Corlett (5-1) and Jordan Cummings (4-1with 2 saves). Both have proven themselves as shut-down types coming out of the bullpen.

“Sam isn’t the overpowering type, but he throws strikes,” Ritsche said. “He has a nice curve and change-up, and he does a good job of spot-pitching with his fast ball. What makes Eric and Jordan so effective is their ability to throw off-speed pitches for strikes.

“Pitching has carried us all year. But we’ll still make some changes with the back end of our bullpen and with who we put in the game as middle relievers. These tweaks will help us to bring in the right pitchers for the right game situations.”

About Author

Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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