Baseball gets back on track after rough loss v. Webster

| Senior Sports Editor

A 1-1 weekend at home against No. 15 Webster University fluctuated between the strongly positive and the strongly negative for the Washington University baseball team.

Bad news first—the Bears’ ace pitcher Stephen Bonser, a senior, who entered Saturday morning with a 2.08 ERA and at least seven innings pitched in all six of his starts, was roughed up for eight runs (six earned) in 3 1/3 innings of a 19-7 loss.

“Webster came in riding a really long winning streak, and they came in hot, and we just couldn’t really stop them,” senior pitcher Taylor Berman said.

The bullpen didn’t fare much better.

Senior Matt Tracy struggled for his second consecutive outing, failing to record an out and giving up five runs (four earned). Tracy had been lights-out through his first four starts with a 1.99 ERA. But that number has risen to 3.68 in only five innings pitched since after Grinnell College tagged him for 10 hits and four earned runs March 30, and the Webster hitters got to him Saturday. In total, five Bear relievers surrendered 11 runs, with only senior Ryan Furtick and sophomore Ian Kelso emerging unscathed in a combined 1 2/3 innings pitched.

Kelso’s perfect ninth inning in his first varsity appearance could be taken as a bright spot from the otherwise bleak morning for the Bears.

Now for the rest of the good news—the Bears’ lineup produced from top to bottom in both Saturday games, the 19-7 loss and an 8-6 victory afterward. In the opening defeat, eight of nine Wash. U. starters collected at least one hit. The one who did not, sophomore Chris Lowery, still managed to drive in two runs. Junior Kyle Billig collected three RBIs on a double and a groundout, and sophomores Brandon Deger and Noah Doppelt both had two-hit games.

Wash. U.’s pitchers fared better in game two, and the hitters took care of business again, rallying the Bears back from a 5-0 deficit. Six of nine batters had hits, two of the three who didn’t picked up RBIs, and the other, Lowery, drew two walks.

“Guys are starting to find their rhythm…that comes not only with more at-bats and experience at the plate throughout the season but also with the warm weather, honestly,” Deger said. “You really see a lot of balls flying off the bats.”

Five Bears picked up two hits each, including Deger, who has at least one hit in 10 of his last 11 games. After stepping into the varsity batter’s box only once in his freshman year and opening his sophomore season without a starting job, Deger has forced his way into head coach Steve Duncan’s lineup with a team-leading .486 slugging percentage and a .378 batting average, the latter of which ranks second on the team behind Lowery’s .385 mark.

Deger made productive use of his time on the bench, studying tendencies of opposing pitchers while charting them for the coaching staff. When called upon to pinch hit against the University of Rochester in a University Athletic Association tournament game on March 14, he smacked an RBI double.

“I got a chance in Florida and got a big hit, and [Duncan] pulled me in and told me that I’d be getting a lot more opportunities,” Deger said.

Deger started off a seven-run Wash. U. fourth inning against Webster with a single to right field. After five runs scored, sophomore Zack Kessinger’s two-run single put the Bears ahead for good.

Six Webster runners crossed home in six innings against Wash. U. sophomore Dom Quaranta, but only two runs were earned. Berman struck out two in a scoreless inning of relief, and sophomore Max Zhang went two innings for his fourth save.

“We strung together a bunch of hits in a row, got a big rally going, took the lead and then our bullpen—Taylor Berman and Max Zhang—shut it down after a great start from [Quaranta],” Deger said. “Really for us, these comeback wins are huge going forward, especially those in-region games. It’s always good to beat Webster, too.”

After a 9-7 win and 2-1 loss in seven-inning games at DePauw University on Thursday and the team’s 1-1 showing on Saturday, the Bears stand at 16-10. They travel to Terre Haute, Ind., Wednesday for a matchup with Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and return home Thursday to host Fontbonne University.

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