Baseball drops two in Arkansas against Hendrix

| Managing Editor

Clayton Miller throws a pitch on the old dirt mound of Kelly Field during the 2022 season. (Clara Richards | Student Life)

Baseball was soggy for what felt like two days straight in Arkansas. 

 On Saturday, March 25, their game was pushed back later and later into the afternoon as weather systems moved into the area. A doubleheader turned into a 4 p.m. start time when pitcher Clayton Miller finally took the mound. 

Again on Sunday, the weather stymied the Bears’ plan to interrupt the sweep being executed against them. After scoring more runs in the first inning than they did in the previous eighteen, sheets of rain forced a no-decision for their third game against Hendrix.

In the two full games that WashU did play against Hendrix over their weekend series, the Bears struggled to match the production at the plate. They finished the weekend with two losses and only two runs in eighteen innings of play. Hendrix outscored them 9-2 over the course of the two games. 

“We pitched it well [and] we hit it well, but it was the little things, kind of in between the lines, where we lost that battle,” senior catcher Hunter Goldberg said. “I feel like we played well as a team. They just outplayed us.” 

According to head coach Pat Bloom, Hendrix was a team that WashU “just didn’t have an answer for.” 

“But I thought it made us better — that process of playing a good team, an NCAA caliber team, on the road, playing in poor conditions,” Bloom said.

For the second weekend in a row, Bloom handed the ball to Clayton Miller, Matt Lopes, and Sebastian Guzman as starting pitchers for the three-game series. Unlike previous years, where the team had a designated starter to set the tone for the weekend, the team doesn’t necessarily have a dedicated ace. They don’t have their Brad Margolin, John Howard, or Ryan Loutos that anchored the rotation in prior years. 

“We still need some guys to step into those starting spots and be a reliable, consistent, shutdown guy,” Bloom said. “Last year, we were still searching for that guy. And this year, there’s still open competition for it. But I’m encouraged by some of the things I’ve seen in the first two weekends.” 

Goldberg sees both advantages and disadvantages to the increased flexibility of not having a go-to guy.

“You don’t have that guy who’s gonna go out there and gonna shove,” Goldberg said. “But instead of having that one guy to lean on, we’ve just got multiple capable guys. We just don’t know who it’s going to be on a week-to-week basis, but there’s no doubt we have confidence behind them.” 

The team has found an effective combination of relievers who complement the starters well, offering different looks and arm slots to generate some swings and misses. Sophomore Hank Weiss pitched three innings after Lopes and allowed one hit. Sophomore Will Henkel was handed the ball after Clayton Miller and pitched four innings with eight punchouts.  

Looking at the team’s schedule, the third game technically doesn’t exist. It will stay as a no contest in the scorebooks. But after Broghan O’Connor hit a bomb in the second inning, WashU tacked on three more runs on two outs for a four-spot in the second inning. 

Anthony Gross and Goldberg went four for four in the three-and-a-half innings of play, and leadoff hitter Brandon Buday managed two doubles before the rain turned the grass field into a swamp. 

“I think a big takeaway from that [game] is that, as a group of hitters, we need to be that confident, regardless of who’s up on the mound,” Goldberg said. 

After being on the road for two consecutive weekends, the Bears will have the chance to run the basepaths on the turf on Kelly Field for the first time. The new field renovations mean that there will be no early morning tarp pulls, raking the mound, or field maintenance for the players as the sun sets over a dark Kelly Field. Besides the new turf, the facility has a bigger dugout and player development area. They have two cages versus one, with three mound bullpen areas for the pitchers. Instead of the pitchers having to throw plyo balls against the uneven brick bathroom walls, they now have a throw wall in the bullpen area. The facility will still not have overhead lights. 

The new turf field will save the program significant time in field maintenance while making practice much more efficient. (Morgan Fowler | Student Life)

“I don’t even think I can put it into words,” Goldberg said about how grateful he was for the new facility, crediting the coaching staff and administration for tackling the project. “I think I can speak for the whole team when I say that we’re ecstatic. Like, it’s honestly surreal.” 

“It’s just such a tremendous improvement, not just in terms of the quality of the facility, but the quality of the experience and developmental process,” Bloom said. “We’ve looked forward to being out there for a few weeks, being able to put our feet down at home, and try to play some good baseball.” 

WashU will face Illinois-Wesleyan University at home on Saturday, March 4 at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.

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