Fortunately, Eastern is done playing DeSales this season.
The baseball team began conference play March 27 with a doubleheader against Wilkes University. After splitting the two games, the team has gone on to post three wins against six losses the past few weeks against Freedom Conference opponents, even as shoddy weather has forced rainouts and rescheduling several times along the way.
The toughest stretch of this schedule came in a three-game series against DeSales from April 2-6. The Eagles lost all three contests by a combined score of 16-4 and were shut out twice by the Bulldogs strong starting pitching. The Eagles’ bats came alive in the third game against Bulldogs’ starter Chris Polaski, but they were unable to overcome a five-run deficit through the first two innings en route to a 5-4 loss.
The Eagles, still seeking their first three-game win streak of the season, bounced back in a big way on April 11 at home against King’s College as they stormed to a 10-2 victory in the first game of a doubleheader. The victory was secured after an eight-run first inning gave Eastern the lead, 8-2. King’s starting pitcher Mike Krieger surrendered more runs (five) than outs (one) before being pulled in favor of Zach Palansky, who gave up three more runs before finally finishing out the inning. The Eagles would score twice more while King’s would not score again, finally earning hard-luck pitcher Austin Little a well-deserved first win. In the second matchup, the Eagles again fell behind 2-0, but this time they waited out King’s pitcher Andrew Fisher before jumping on him for three runs in the fifth. Eagles pitcher Ryan Kehr conceded two runs, neither earned, to earn the win.
The Eagles’ pitching has looked stronger of late, particularly Little and freshman Tommy Strazza, and the offense looked much stronger this weekend. Eagles hitters avoided the high strikeout totals and low on-base percentages that have bogged down the offense at times this season. The top of the order has been sensational all year, with Angelo Kelly, Ryan McMenamin, Timmy Gorton and Joe Grato all posting averages over .300. However, it was the other players that made the difference this weekend, accounting for nine of the team’s 16 hits. Continued contribution from the rest of the lineup will go a long way toward easing the burden on the aforementioned foursome.
With eight conference tilts remaining, the Eagles currently sit in fifth place in the eight-team Freedom Conference. However, they challenged Wilkes, one of the conference’s top teams, and have shown that they are not to be taken lightly. More importantly, their remaining schedule features a number of the conference’s lesser teams, including three games against either King’s or Delaware Valley, both of whom are winless in the conference.
Not having to play DeSales again sure helps. Unless, of course, it’s in the conference playoffs.