Baseball wins 3 of 4 games against DePauw

| Associate Editor

Stephen Huber | Student Life

Junior Kunal Patel throws a fastball in the first inning of the Washington University baseball team’s 6-5 victory over DePauw University Saturday afternoon. Patel pitched 7 2/3 innings and struck out three to pick up his third win of the season.

Behind freshman CJ Price batting 7-for-10 on Friday and senior Kyle Billig setting a school record for all-time career runs scored on Saturday, the Washington University baseball team bested DePauw University in three of four games at home.

Having won six of their last eight games entering the weekend, the Bears looked to continue their recent success after a rough start at the beginning of the season. The Red and Green (17-15 record) swept their first doubleheader Saturday as Price led the team to 10-6 and 9-8 victories and split their second doubleheader on Sunday with a 3-2 loss and 6-5 win. With his team now above .500 for the first time since starting the season 1-0, head coach Steve Duncan was pleased with the team’s performance and mid-season improvements.

“We had a pretty rough beginning this season, but we’ve been getting better each and every week. We’ve definitely come a long way from where we started,” Duncan said. “Our expectations going into this series was to win all four games this weekend, and we came pretty close to doing that.”

Despite Duncan’s confidence, Wash. U. had a rough start in its first game against the Tigers as junior starting pitcher Don Quaranta surrendered two runs and two hits in the first inning. While Quaranta didn’t have his best outing in a five-inning appearance that included three earned runs and 10 hits allowed, the Bears’ offense picked up the slack and evened the score at five runs apiece. Wash. U. finally took the lead with Billig’s two RBI singles in the seventh inning and extended it with another three runs in the eighth to win by four.

“We just kept battling out there for that first game, and I was glad to see us pull through in the end,” Duncan said. “We strung together excellent hits, and we started to learn about our opponents’ tendencies, which helped us out strategically.”

Bats came alive for both sides in the second game with DePauw recording 10 hits and Wash. U. posting 16. Price was a major contributor to the Bears’ offensive success as the second baseman went 5-6 at bat with one RBI. Due in part to improving his batting technique, Price has become him a dangerous hitter with the highest batting average, .393, on the team.

“Baseball is a game of failure, and you have to learn to deal with failure. But sometimes, the hardest thing is to deal with success,” Price said. “When you string a couple of hits together, it’s hard to stay in the moment and I don’t want that to happen—just trying to simplify everything and don’t complicate anything.”

With an 8-4 lead in the top of the ninth, it looked like the Bears would have no trouble closing with a win. Those thoughts began to fade when junior pitcher Max Zhang couldn’t close, giving up four runs on four hits. But the discouraging top of the inning didn’t prevent the Red and Green from fighting back. Stringing together two hits and a walk with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Bears looked to Price to save the day. He didn’t disappoint and hit a walk-off single up the middle to bring senior pinch-runner Dylan Reid home.

“CJ [Price] is a very gritty kid, and he’s always determined to have great at-bats,” Duncan said. “He’s been confident since he’s stepped foot on campus, and there’s not a moment too big for him. He’s grown a lot as a player, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be the guy pitching against him.”

Graduate student Stephen Bonser was the star of the first game in Saturday’s doubleheader. The Bears’ offense mustered only two runs on eight hits, but Bonser kept the score close and threw a complete game with eight strikeouts and three earned runs allowed. Entering the top of the ninth with a tie, the team hoped Bonser could throw another scoreless inning. But a single followed by a sacrifice bunt, wild pitch and sacrifice fly gave DePauw the lead, and the Bears weren’t able to respond in their half of the inning.

“[Bonser] has had some tough luck all season. He pitched so well, and unfortunately what should have been a winning performance ended with a loss,” Duncan said. “I feel for him because he did everything that we told him to do and had great control. But he still has his head up, and I think his confidence hasn’t wavered.”

The Bears ended the series on a high note with junior pitcher Kunal Patel, who allowed three earned runs and six hits in over 7 2/3 innings, on the mound. Tied at four after five innings, junior shortstop Andrew Golstick gave Wash. U. the lead with an RBI groundout as Billig scored to set the school record for most runs scored in a career. With a one-run lead in the late innings, freshman pitcher Scott Nelson relieved Patel and closed the deal for his first career save.

Wash. U. will return to action on Monday at home as the team face Blackburn University at 3 p.m.

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