Baseball heads to Florida series riding back-to-back victories

Rowan begins an 11-game stint at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational on Thursday.

Junior outfielder Nick Gallo slides safely into second base during a 3-2 win over Stevens Institute of Technology in ten innings on Sunday, March 6. The victory was the second in a row for the Profs after losing their first three. Rowan will be in Auburndale, Florida today to start a nine-game set. -Assistant Photo Editor/Amanda Palma

Like many college students at this point in the semester, members of the Rowan baseball team are excited to head to Florida for spring break.

But unlike many college students, the Profs will be going to compete in the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational beginning today, and after back-to-back home wins they are packing a ton of momentum in their carry-ons.

The tournament set the tone for last year’s team; Rowan took a 1-1 record into Auberndale, Florida and won six of eight games in seven days. This year, the team sits at 2-3 overall as they prepare to play eleven games in ten days.

Junior infielder Jason Clapper said he believes the team can find similar success.

“I’m hoping this year will be a lot like last year,” Clapper said. “We were playing all the top teams in the nation and we were competing, and we got a lot of big wins. I feel like this year we’ve got the same thing going for us.”

If the brown and gold hope to have a productive trip to the Sunshine State, they need to stay loyal to the style of play that won them their last two games. When the team was down early in both contests, they were able to make adjustments in the field and at the plate to shift the momentum and rally late, something head coach Mike Dickson has stressed to his team.

“I talked to them right around the fifth inning [against York College] about making an adjustment at the plate,” Dickson said. “Sometimes against a slow-throwing left-hander, hitters tend to get out on their front foot and that’s what we were doing. We were hitting some pretty weak fly balls early on but we made adjustments and started to get the bats swinging, and that turned the game around.”

Those adjustments do not just come mid-game. Sophomore designated hitter Monny Strickland said that it is also important for the team to learn and bounce back fro major losses.

“It felt good because we went 0-3, and [Randolph-Macon is] a pretty good club but I don’t think they should have beaten us in three games,” Strickland said. “But we got two big wins and we’re heading into Florida on a high note, and that’s always good.”

Strickland also said that the trip is a great opportunity for the team, which has 22 new faces in the clubhouse, to build chemistry on and off the field.

“When you’re hanging out with the guys off the field, you build chemistry and build friendships and as you get closer, that trust builds,” Strickland said. “With new guys there are always a lot of adjustments you have to make, but once everyone gets comfortable it’s a lot of fun.”

“We’ve got ten solid days with each other to get on the same page, have fun and get after it,” Clapper said.

Even though players are still settling into their roles, the five games that the team has already played are more than those played by several of the teams they will face in the tournament.

Rowan will be the first opponent for Clarkson University and Framingham State University in their respective seasons on Friday, March 11, and Tuesday, March 15, respectively. Likewise, University of Massachusetts-Boston and Endicott College will have each only played one game before the RussMatt, and both Wheaton College and University of Wisconsin-La Crosse will begin their seasons in Auburndale.

The teams the Profs are likely concerned with the most are Bridgewater College (10-5), the program they face today to open the invitational, as well as Saturday’s opponent, the SUNY Cortland Red Dragons (8-0).

Regardless of who Rowan faces, Dickson is confident that his squad is capable of giving anyone a fight. If they continue their high level of play, he said, they should be able to snag some wins in the tournament.

“We have to really come together as a group,” Dickson said. “We’ve got a lot of games to play down there, so I’m excited about where we are going to be when we return from Florida.”

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