Baseball ends season with strike out

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By Anthony Gulizia, News Staff

The baseball team played its final three games of what can be considered one of the least successful seasons of head coach Neil McPhee’s 25-year tenure, perhaps even in the program’s 89 years. Head coach Neil McPhee called the season “extremely frustrating, and very surprising.”

This weekend, the Huskies dropped a three-game set against Delaware, finishing 5-19 in the Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA), and 13-31 overall on the season.

“It was clearly a nightmare of a season that nobody expected to happen, and yet it did,” McPhee said. “It’s difficult to explain because we’ve never had a year like this one before.”

This is McPhee’s sixth losing season since he took over the team in 1986. He has led the Huskies into the playoffs 15 out of the last 18 years.

“I do think that we will recover, and nobody expects a repeat of this year,” McPhee added.

Since 2006, the number of scholarships the program was awarded was reduced from eight to six. A greater number of scholarships yielded higher results, as the Huskies finished 27-23 and 19-10 in the CAA during the 2006 season. Not only did they make a run in the playoffs, but produced four draft picks: pitchers Adam Ottavino and Dave Pellegrine, catcher Matt Morizio and outfielder Chris Emanuele.

Despite the decrease in scholarship funding, the Huskies produced three more draft picks, and made the playoffs in 2009.

More so, the Huskies continue to bring in substantial talent. This year, sophomore left-handed pitcher Drew Leenhouts and sophomore first baseman Matt Miller were successful. Leenhouts’ 88 strikeouts led the team and ranked fifth in the CAA. His 3.15 earned run average was also fifth in the CAA, while his .234 opposing batting average was good enough for second.

Miller led the team with a .320 batting average, and he constantly pulled through in clutch situations, McPhee said.

“Quietly, he’s one of the best clutch hitters in the history of the program,” McPhee said. “He’s just there, and always knows what to do.”

On the diamond, the Huskies had a hard time combining the three essential elements: pitching, offense and defense. However if there was one constant force, it was the pitching staff. While junior right-hander Les Williams and Leenhouts provided a constant one-two punch all season long, the third spot in the rotation was never solidified. However, the Huskies received strong efforts from senior left-hander Charly Bashara, freshman left-hander Kevin Ferguson, and junior left-hander JT Ross.

“Hardly at anytime did we mesh our hitting, pitching, and defense, and that was our biggest problem,” McPhee said. “Our pitching was our strongest, and generally good pitching should win, but we couldn’t support that and it was very frustrating.”
Defensively, the young Huskies lacked experience.

“With a young infield, going through the learning curve of playing the game at a significantly faster pace caused us big defensive problems,” McPhee said. “But the freshmen players got truly significant playing time of Division I baseball and has to be a plus for the season.”

Freshman infielder Logan Gillis started 32 games, mostly at third base, and could attest to the difficult transition from high school sports to collegiate athletics.

“The biggest adjustment to make as a player is learning that the season is much longer than a high school season, and that you can’t get a hit or make the play every time,” Gillis said. “As much as we would all like to be perfect, it is nearly impossible and the quicker we learn to make adjustments the better off we will be.”

Offensively, the Huskies hit the ball well and often, as Miller and senior outfielders Frank Compagnone and Tony DiCesare hit over .300. However, the offense was not provided at the right times.

“Baseball is a game of failure, and if you fail one out of three times you’re a success,” McPhee said. “But we failed two out of three times, and it happened to be when we needed to succeed the most.”

Despite the poor performance of the season, McPhee said he was satisfied with the leadership of his seniors, and their ability to never quit.

“The disappointing year that we had and the way the seniors handled it with leadership and class was what every coach wants to see,” he said. “There were no moments were we didn’t compete, let down, or have a bad attitude. They just kept battling and battling and that’s a tribute to the people on the team.”

Going into next season, McPhee said he looks to bring his squad back into playoff contention, and believes it can be done as long as everything can come together.

“The goal we have every season is to make the CAA tournament,” McPhee said. “Once you get into tournament play, you can win it.”

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