Improving their fielding

Justin Onslow and Justin Onslow

If the Falcon baseball team is to win its third straight Mid-American Conference championship this year, the team is going to have to play better in the field.

Head coach Danny Schmitz emphasizes three phases of the game– hitting, pitching and defense. Although he often refers to defense last on the list, he will be the first to tell you it is far from unimportant. Schmitz has been fairly pleased with the way his team is swinging the bat, and is more concerned with its pitching and defense.

“We definitely have to sure up our defense because pitching and defense will help win championships,” Schmitz said. “You have to be able to get the opposition out.”

Last weekend against Northern Illinois, the Falcons got some key pitching performances and continued to hit pretty well. The team committed nine errors and gave up a slew of unearned runs, however, dropping two of the three games to the Huskies.

“Last weekend against Northern Illinois we just made way too many errors on routine plays and gave Northern too many extra outs,” Schmitz said. “What happens usually when you give the opposition extra outs is they take advantage of it.”

Schmitz believes his team can turn things around, however. The team’s fielding woes can be mostly contributed to a lack of focus and confidence on defense.

“It’s a lack of concentration,” Schmitz said. “Fielding can be just like hitting. You get in slumps. We have to do a better job of focusing and concentrating and just having that attitude.”

BG will head north this evening for a three-game set against Eastern Michigan University. Several players have been dealing with injuries within the last two weeks, but Schmitz considers them all day-to-day injuries at this point and hopes they will be at full strength soon.

“We have a number of guys that are banged up,” Schmitz said. “It’s going to be very important that we get these guys back. I think they’re all getting to the point where they’re day-to-day. Hopefully they’ll be ready to go this weekend.”

Seniors Logan Meisler and Dennis Vaughn are two veteran leaders who have missed some time this season. Each are battling the effects of a concussion. Senior Tyler Elkins has missed almost two weeks of the season with injury as well.

Schmitz would love to have his team at full strength, but he does not attribute the team’s sub-par performance this season to injuries.

“I don’t use that as an excuse,” Schmitz said. “Everybody’s going to have injuries, and that means that’s opportunities for other guys to step it up.”

Freshman Matthew Pitzulo has taken advantage of extra playing time due to team injuries. Pitzulo has bounced around between shortstop and second base to fill in for injured teammates. He has also seen considerable time as designated hitter. Pitzulo is currently leading the team in batting average at .426 on the season. He is also second in slugging at .574.

Several other freshmen have stepped up as well. The Falcons’ number-two starter Michael Frank has an ERA of 4.23 in five starts, striking out 18 batters and walking only nine. Pitchers Nick Bruns and Patrick O’Brien have also been solid contributors for the Falcons so far this season.

The weekend series against Easter Michigan could prove to be a turning point for the BG baseball squad. The team is hitting .312 on the year and got some good pitching performances last weekend against Northern Illinois. The team also played error-free baseball Tuesday night in its loss to Dayton.

If the Falcons can begin piecing the puzzle together, winning is a certainty. Schmitz feels his team has what it takes, but needs to start playing more consistently and putting it all together.

“We just need to get it going here,” Schmitz said. “We just need to really focus and just play hard and play Falcon baseball. We need to get back to the blue-collar work ethic. If we do that we’re going to be fine.”

Tonight’s first pitch has been rescheduled for 6. at Oestrike Stadium. Junior Brennan Smith will tow the rubber for the Falcons, while Michael Frank is the probable starter in Saturday’s contest. That game is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Sunday’s game will begin at 1 p.m.