Bears on road to recovery after woeful weekend

| Associate Editor

Starting pitcher Taylor Berman delivers home against DePauw University on Sunday. Berman threw 3.2 innings and gave up four runs in a no decision, but the Bears eventually lost the game 22-9.

Starting pitcher Taylor Berman delivers home against DePauw University on Sunday. Berman threw 3.2 innings and gave up four runs in a no decision, but the Bears eventually lost the game 22-9.

This wasn’t the start the Washington University baseball team was expecting. Not by a long shot.

Four games into the 2012 season, the Bears are just 1-3, and in a three-game sweep at the hands of DePauw University this past weekend at home, were outscored by 24 runs, allowed 21 walks and committed 11 errors.

“We didn’t see that coming. We had a tremendous amount of respect for DePauw, having played them last year, knowing that they had almost their entire team returning, but no, we didn’t anticipate the game being out of hand on Sunday like it did and certainly didn’t anticipate losing three games in a row,” head coach Steve Duncan said. “But I think it points to our youth and inexperience more than anything, not to our talent level.”

In the second leg of last Sunday’s doubleheader, Wash. U. jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, but the Tigers quickly clawed back into the game with four runs in the fourth inning. An 11-run seventh inning, in which DePauw sent 16 men to the plate, put the cap upon a demoralizing 22-9 defeat.

The trouncing prompted a lengthy team meeting immediately after the game’s end.

“There wasn’t much that needed to be said. The game spoke to how we were playing, and so [Duncan] really didn’t need to say much other than, ‘Take what we experienced here and use that as motivation for the rest of the season,’” senior outfielder and pitcher Brandon Rogalski said.

With just two returning starting position players, sophomore center fielder Kyle Billig and junior infielder Greg Gleicher, inexperience has cost the Bears in this early season.

“Inexperience and youth are partly to blame, but it was also just a wakeup call for us that there’s some more work that needs to be put in. The guys have worked tremendously hard throughout the offseason, so it wasn’t for a lack of effort or lack of preparation, but it did show us that we have a ways to go to where we want to be,” Duncan said.

But all is not lost. DePauw is considered an out-of-region team, and as such, the losses do not harm Wash. U.’s chances at making the postseason, and on Tuesday, also at home, the Bears got their first win of the season, thanks to a ninth-inning rally against Greenville College at home.

“I think we did wake up. The practice we had on Monday, we focused exclusively on defensive work, and I saw a renewed focus within the players on improving their own fundamentals because no one likes to experience the kind of game we experienced on Sunday when it got out of hand,” Duncan said. “These guys have a lot of pride, and they work really hard, so I think we’re all determined to not happen ever again this year.”

Faced with a three-run deficit to start the final frame, Wash. U. forced two walks and a hit batsman. A two-RBI single, a run-scoring wild pitch, and an Andrew Dwoskin walk-off-single gave the Bears a tally in the win column.

Tuesday’s win, in which Wash. U. committed no errors and freshman firstbasemen Zack Kessinger turned a critical triple play, is a promising sign, but the team’s schedule does not get any easier. No. 16 Buena Vista University and No. 13 College of St. Scholastica will visit for two games each this weekend.

“This past weekend, we weren’t playing up to our abilities, both offensively, defensively and in pitching,” Rogalski said. “As long as we play to our potential, I don’t think we’ll have a problem. We’ll definitely compete. Whether or not we win isn’t really a question, but we’re going to compete with the teams, and we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win every game.”

The first pitch against Buena Vista is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Friday.

“We’re looking forward to this weekend. It’s a stiff task; there’s no question about it. These are two of the best teams in the country, and we’ve got two games against each of them. We’re going to be tested, but I feel a little confident going in. I think our guys are ready for it,” Duncan said.

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