Falcon Baseball wins four out of their last five after making changes to batting order

The highs and lows, the bumps in the road, the roller coaster ride — it’s all just beginning to heat up for the Falcons.

Twenty-six games in and 24 to go, the Bowling Green baseball team has already had its fair share of struggles at the season’s midpoint. Beginning the season 5-6, the Falcons promptly followed the average start with a daunting 10-game losing skid, which carried into the Mid-American Conference season.

BG dropped its opening MAC series to Ball State, getting swept in three games on its home dirt of Steller Field.

Again the following week, Michigan rallied late thrusting another loss to the Falcons’ record before Northern Illinois opened the weekend series with two dazzling victories over the Falcons, again at Steller Field.

Limiting the Falcons to just five combined runs over the first two games, the Huskies couldn’t buy an out, notching 23 runs on 30 hits over the same two games.

Enough was enough for the Falcons.

“You are going to have peaks and valleys throughout a season. You don’t want to get too high, but you also don’t want to get too low when you’re going through those,” said head coach Danny Schmitz.

After scrambling for a solution, unable to right the ship, BG stumbled upon a new leadoff hitter.

His name — an unfamiliar one — was Kory Brown.

A junior college transfer, head coach Danny Schmitz was impressed with him enough during preseason practices to trust him as one of just three team-captains — the only junior of the three — and has undeniably been the catalyst that BG desperately pained for.

The — at the time — 5-16 Falcons began to hit their stride, winning four of their last five games.

BG bested the Huskies in the series finale, but the win couldn’t erase the month-long woes. This is when the Falcons moved Brown to the leadoff spot and bumped four-year starter, first team all-MAC shortstop a year ago, career .332 hitter and fellow team-captain Brian Bien, from the leadoff spot down to the nine-hole.

“We talked about as a coaching staff that we felt we needed to make a few changes in the lineup. So we decided to go ahead and put Kory Brown in the leadoff slot,” Schmitz said. “He’s a little bit more disciplined, a little bit more patient at the plate and he’s been doing a good job getting on base and that allows Brandon Howard to kind of do the same thing. That’s a big key — getting the top of the lineup on base — and then the middle guys, it’s their job to knock those guys in.”

Maybe a tough change to make, but not a difficult to rationalize for Schmitz.

Bien, while still one of the best defensive shortstops in the MAC, has been stranded below the Mendoza Line at the dish for much of the 26 games this season, forcing the hand of Schmitz.

In Brown’s four-game stretch batting leadoff, the Falcons have gone 3-1, won its first MAC series and scored 38 runs.

“We weren’t playing with much fun, it seems like the last five games or so we’re playing a lot more loose, playing together, having fun. It’s been nice getting back to that,” said senior outfielder Matt Smith, who finished the weekend hitting 6-12 with five runs and three RBIs. “Our mentality [has changed]. After you lose a couple in a row it’s tough to get out of that mindset. Once we picked up one against NIU just to snap that spell, things started rolling our way.”

BG scored just 30 runs over its 10-game losing streak, further emphasizing the impact Brown has had in the early going of the experiment.

Brown has hit 7-17 [.412] while scoring five runs and knocking in two RBIs over the four-game span, rubbing off on middle of the Falcons’ order. Hitters two through seven have hit a combined 31-83 [.374], plated 31 RBIs and launched five homeruns over the four-game stretch.

This moves to the pitching staff for the Falcons.

Original Friday night starter Andrew Lacinak has been moved to Saturday due to inconsistency while team-captain Jason Link now takes the mound on Friday. But neither has been lights-out this season.

Freshman arm Zac Carey takes the rubber game on Sunday — a role he has surprised in lately — to round out the three-man rotation.

“You’re going to win with pitching and defense and the pitching is where we really have to start raising the level,” Schmitz said. “We must get quality starts game in and game out from our starting pitchers. That’s going to be key.”

When the offense is rolling as they have been of late, the Falcons are a tough team to beat regardless. But, the offense is an integral piece for the performance of the pitching staff, too.

“When we’re hitting good, pitchers can throw more strikes and they can pound the zone,” Smith said. “Do what they do best.”

Whether it’s the staff doing what it does best, the offense making it tough on opposing pitchers, or the defense limiting opponents to just 27 outs, the Falcons have the plethora of weapons to make a splash — the question is whether or not each player can play their part day-in-and-day-out.

The recent confidence the team has stumbled upon appears to be a critical piece that will continue to ignite the team moving forward.

“Going through that tough 10-game losing streak, that wasn’t easy on anybody. To win four out of five, you can see the guys’ confidence growing and that’s what the game’s all about — gaining confidence,” Schmitz said.