The Willamette University baseball team made the trip from the Pacific Northwest to square off
against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps baseball team in a four-game series. Willamette comes from the
notably competitive Northwest Conference, which is also home to last season’s
NCAA championship team, Linfield College. The Willamette Bearcats posed challenging competition for CMS, but the Stags had a strong
showing and split the series.
Willamette began the series Feb. 7 with a 16-7 win, but CMS was not going to let the Bearcats take control.
In the first game on Feb. 8, Willamette led 7-4 going into the bottom of the ninth, but CMS rallied and began the inning with back-to-back singles.
Clutch at-bats by both Scott Witte CM ’14 and Ray Hurwitz HM ’14 fueled a
rally, bringing the score to 7-7. With the bases loaded, Alan Toscano CM
’16 drew a walk, earning CMS their first win of the season.
The second game that day proved to be a struggle against the
Willamette pitching staff, who kept the Stags at five hits throughout the game. Two
Willamette home runs pushed the final score to 5-1.
Nevertheless, the Stags ended the series on a strong
note. In the final game Feb. 9, Willamette took a 1-0 lead in the
second inning, but Christian Hoxsie CM ’15 began
the third inning with a one-out double that opened the door for a six-run CMS rally.
The Stags showed excellent discipline at the plate, drawing four walks in a row and leaving the bases loaded for a two RBI shot by John Rizzo CM ’15. Hurwitz came through again, hitting in another two runs that pushed the CMS lead to a
Complementing the Stags’ strong offensive showing was Chad Hadnzinsky
CM ’14, who pitched just over five innings and allowed only one earned run. Andor
Kesselman CM ’14 came in with the save as CMS defeated Willamette soundly, 11-6. The series brought the Stags’ record
Head coach Randy Town said that the series went well, but the
team still has room for improvement. From a defensive standpoint, he noted that
the walk-to-strikeout ratio was too high.
“Early on in the season, you know,
pitchers are still trying to get their feet on the ground as well, so they’re
trying to cut that walk-strikeout ratio to a manageable number,” he said.
The Stags did not strike out enough Willamette players to even out the 21 players that walked, Town explained.
“If you’re going to
walk that many, you need to strike more guys out,” he said. “We only struck out 21 guys, so that’s a 1:1 ratio, but you’re looking for a 3:1 ratio.”
From an offensive standpoint, Town thought the team had a strong
showing, especially given that the season only started recently. The middle of the order, comprised of Witte, Rizzo, and Hurwitz, performed particularly well.
“Offensively, we’ve done a pretty
good job,” Town said. “I think we seem to be ahead of schedule with the number of hits.”
The team averaged 10 hits per game in the weekend’s series, more than last year at the same time.
For now, the team needs to work out beginning-of-season
kinks, Town said. The team had 25 players left on base for the series, and he hopes this
number improves as the Stags refine their ability to execute offensively with
runners in scoring position.
Town is striving for consistent defensive
performance—avoiding walks, errors, and mistakes that extend innings—to limit
extra pressure on the Stags’ pitching staff.
Helping the Stags kick the season into high gear are two new
assistant coaches, Kent Cote and Jason Wadell. Waddell joins the CMS coaching
staff after playing eight years of professional baseball.
“Coach Waddell just got done playing major league ball, so he’s
obviously very knowledgeable,” Witte said. “He’s a great guy to have around.”
Hurwitz said that the new coaching contributes a refreshing
change of pace for the Stags.
“It can’t be overstated how much coaching has an
impact at this level, given that people playing here don’t expect to be playing
professional baseball,” he said. “It’s less managing egos professionally and more
fundamentally working with guys. I think our new group of coaches are doing a
good job of that.”
The team is also becoming more cohesive.
“Everyone is kind of meshing right now,” Hurwitz said. “I think a lot
of people are really on the same page and everyone’s excited to start playing
Witte echoed Hurwitz’s point, noting the importance
of focusing on team success over individual accomplishments.
“I’ve noticed this
year, more than years in the past, that we have a team mentality where there’s
not a lot of ‘me’ guys,” Witte said. “We’re not necessarily playing for our batting
averages; we’re playing to get jobs done, and that was good to see in those
first few games.”
The Stags are looking ahead to this weekend’s matchup with Pomona-Pitzer, which marks the beginning of SCIAC play for the Stags. The first game in the three-game series will begin today, Feb. 14, at 2:30 p.m. at Bill Arce Field, while the second and third will take place on Feb. 15 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Pomona College’s Alumni Baseball Field.