Batters head to Cleveland

Andrew Clayman and Andrew Clayman

Looking to rebound from a disappointing weekend, the BG baseball team will take on Cleveland State today in non-conference action. The game, originally scheduled for 2 p.m., has been moved to a 3 p.m. start and will be held at CSU’s Memorial Field No. 1.

The Falcons lost three of four games in a weekend set with Mid-American Conference rival Eastern Michigan, dropping their MAC record to 3-3 and their overall mark to 5-11. All three losses were decided by two runs or less, however, including an extra inning affair.

Not content to settle for moral victories, BG earned an impressive 3-1 win in Sunday’s series finale with EMU, giving coach Danny Schmitz’ team some momentum heading into today’s match-up.

“I thought our team showed some real character,” Schmitz said.

While the Falcon offense is clearly not the juggernaut it once was, there are plenty of reasons for optimism when considering this roster’s development.

The most obvious example is the pitching staff, which has compiled a very respectable 4.00 earned run average through sixteen ballgames. Last year’s regular season MAC championship squad had a team ERA of 6.47 for comparison. Unlike in years past, this BG team relies on its pitching and defense to keep games close, and thus far, the arms have been up to the challenge. Leading that cause has been the junior right-hander Kyle Knoblauch, whose streak of 28.2 scoreless innings finally came to an end on Sunday. On the season, he has a sparkling 0.57 earned run average in a team leading 31.1 innings of work.

The Falcon staff has also been bolstered by the efforts of redshirt sophomore Keith Laughlin (2-1, 4.26 ERA), sophomore Tom Oestrike (4.29 ERA in 4 starts), and senior reliever Doug Flere (2.70 ERA). Laughlin pitched a complete game in Sunday’s win, allowing just one unearned run.

While the BG hurlers have shown consistent improvement, the offense has been hit or miss, no pun intended. The Eastern Michigan series was a good example of this problem, as the Falcons plated eleven runs in Saturday’s 13-11 loss, but just five runs in the other three games combined.

With many new starters in the everyday line-up, such inconsistency is to be expected. Falcon hitters have shown some impatience at the plate, and there are few base stealing threats on the roster, making it difficult to manufacture runs.

As expected, however, veteran stars Kelly Hunt and David Barkholz have picked up the slack, putting up big numbers from the clean-up and lead-off spots respectively. Hunt, a senior first baseman with professional potential, has driven in fifteen runs this season while hitting at a .419 clip with a superb .493 on-base percentage. Barkholz, the rally starter, is hitting .286 with four home-runs and fourteen driven in.

With Schmitz emphasizing the need to get “all three phases (offense, defense, pitching) working together,” the Falcons will look to do just that today against a 2-12 Cleveland State Vikings team. The non-conference schedule then continues this weekend with a four game series against Oakland University. Saturday’s double header begins at noon at Steller Field, with Sunday’s twin bill moving venues to Oakland’s home field in Rochester, Michigan.