It was another successful week for Rowan baseball as they went 3-1, including sweeping William Paterson University on Saturday.
The team had come into the week on an eight-game winning streak, having not recorded a loss since March 23 against Penn State Abington. Rowan first played Rutgers-Camden in a doubleheader this week, winning the first matchup 12-4 and surprisingly losing the second game 8-4. Sophomore pitcher Eli Atiya explained that the loss helped inspire the team going into the doubleheader against William Paterson the following day.
“After that loss on Friday, everyone was definitely mad,” Atiya said. “Coming off a loss, we were all hungry.”
Atiya started on the mound for Rowan in game one against William Paterson, and his performance, which consisted of seven scoreless innings and eight strikeouts, not only helped carry his team to a bounce back 6-0 victory, but also won him an award for New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Rookie Pitcher of the Week, an award he was not even aware that he won.
“I had no idea until literally just now, but it feels really good,” Atiya said.
Head Coach Mike Dickson said the award is hopefully the first of many accomplishments for the rookie pitcher.
“It’s a testament to the work that he’s put in, and hopefully, it’s just the tip of the iceberg for him. Hopefully he realizes the potential that he has and that the sky is the limit for him,” Dickson said.
Atiya has had an impressive season to date, earning his spot as the second pitcher in the rotation, but that was not a spot Atiya thought he would have after the way his season started. In his first start, he recorded a loss against Salisbury University after allowing three earned runs in as many innings, but the support of his coaches and teammates helped him turn the season around.
“After the first start, I really didn’t know if I was going to start again. But the coaches pretty much told me, ‘you had a bad first day, but it happens to everyone. We believe in you and [you] will be starting again. You’re going to pitch this year no matter what.’ And even though I didn’t do well in the first start, my teammates still believed in me, and they play for me every time I go out there and pitch, and they know and they feel that if I’m on the mound we’re going to win and I feel the same,” Atiya said.
Coming into Atiya’s start in game one on Saturday, Rowan and William Paterson were tied atop the conference with each team holding a record of 7-1. With the regular season ending in less than two weeks, this was a crucial sweep for Rowan, and Dickson believes the team needs to continue to play like they have all year to finish the season strong.
“I think we just got to continue to play the way we’ve been playing. We’ve been pretty consistent,” Dickson said. “I’m optimistic about the way we’re playing.”
For Atiya and the rest of the team, it’s the looming thought that their season could be stripped from them at any moment that is helping the team stay motivated and working hard through the homestretch.
“What we’re doing is pretty much working hard every single day, and getting better every single day, and realizing that tomorrow we could get a call that says, ‘your season’s over.’ So we’re going to practice every single day like we’re going to ride this out until we literally can’t anymore.”
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