Blue Jays Baseball Wins 1 of 3 in Season-Opening Series
BY CONNOR MUENKS
After losing five starting seniors in the past year, Westminster’s baseball team picked up more than 20 new players. This new-look squad took the field for the first time this season when it played a three-game series against the Nebraska Wesleyan University Prairie Wolves at home this weekend. The defending St. Louis Intercollegiate champion Blue Jays split the Saturday doubleheader and lost the rubber game on Sunday.
The 2016 team boasted three starting position-playing seniors and two starting senior pitchers. The graduation of these players created an opportunity for incoming players to make an immediate impact. More than 60 percent of the innings pitched by Westminster this weekend were by newcomers. Eleven of those innings were pitched by freshmen Sam Huesgen or Thomas Kinney, who had a combined a 2.45 ERA.
The pitching staff is still comprised of several returning players, including Alex Dickneite, who gave up just two runs over six innings in the first game of the series. Overall, the Blue Jays pitching staff compiled a 3.97 ERA over the weekend. Comparatively, the 2016 Blue Jay staff outside of SLIAC Player of the Year Deion Hughes and SLIAC Pitcher of the Year Colin Brinker, who both graduated, finished the season with a 7.42 ERA.
Several returning Blue Jay batters played important roles against the Prairie Wolves. A.C. Long, a senior catcher who missed the 2016 season due to injury, batted .500 and picked up four RBIs throughout the series. Second baseman Blake Strebler, a junior who earned second-team all-conference last season, picked up six hits over 11 at bats against Nebraska Wesleyan.
Nonetheless, Westminster’s lack of run production might be attributed to a lack of timely hitting. Westminster left 22 runners in scoring position and struck out 20 times throughout the series. Overall, the Blue Jays had a .247 batting average. The 2016 team’s .324 batting average was enough to average nearly nine runs per game. Such run production would have been enough to sweep Nebraska Wesleyan, who compiled a 12-28 record last year.
Another aspect of the game that led to Westminster’s 1-2 record was the team’s fielding. The Blue Jays committed five errors, which led to three unearned runs. The conference-championship-winning team committed 1.4 errors per game, a slightly lower ratio than this year’s Blue Jay team thus far.
Westminster will play its second series of the season at home against Robert Morris-Springfield on March 5.