Coming into the home matchup against Swarthmore College on Tuesday, March 28, the Rowan baseball team had won seven straight and scored double-digit runs in five out of those seven games.
The train kept rolling at The Nest on Tuesday afternoon, with Head Coach Mike Dickson and company upping their winning streak to eight games after capturing a dominant 15-2 win.
“We’re playing well,” Coach Dickson said. “The pitching has been a lot better the past couple of games, and we’ve been swinging the bat all year round, so as long as we can continue to pitch and play defense, we’ll be in a lot of games.”
The 15 runs on the day marked the fourth straight game in which the Profs have scored in double figures. Third baseman Anthony Schooley, who led the team with five RBIs on the day, feels there’s no stopping Rowan’s lineup as they approach the mid-season mark.
“We’re at an all-time high, everything’s starting to click together,” Schooley said. “I’ll quote Jalen Hurts here, I don’t think we’ve played our best ball yet, I know we have more in the tank. Everyone’s starting to click together a little better now, but there’s better games to come, there’s better games to play, for sure. We know we’re better than what we’ve shown; we’ve had great results, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
In addition to the offensive explosion at the plate, the defending New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) regular-season champions made their presence known on the basepaths, with three different players stealing six bases throughout the game.
“Murph [Ryan Murphy] is so big and long, for him to be able to steal bases is huge for us,” Coach Dickson said. “[Stealing] allows us to put our baserunners in good positions to be able to score runs. Between him [Murphy], Sedalis, Cannon, they’re all great baserunners, so it just helps out our offense even more.”
After a rough start to the season in the base running department, Schooley feels as though the offense is beginning to hit their stride on the base paths.
“We’ve been working on it a lot lately,” Schooley said. “The first couple of games when we were at Virginia Wesleyan, and then a little bit down in Florida, we had some trouble stealing bases, so we made that a priority and really tried to figure it out. I think we’ve got that down to a science now, so you can probably see a little bit more of that coming soon.”
Ever since the Profs returned to Glassboro following the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational, the lineup has made it a habit of jumping on opposing pitching early in games. In the four games since the RussMatt, Rowan has scored 33 total runs in the first four innings of those matchups.
Schooley claims this has been a part of the offensive mindset in recent games.
“We’re just trying to put up as many as we can, as early as possible,” Schooley said. “Trying to limit the amount of runs that our pitchers have to worry about. If we’re up by ten in the third inning and our pitchers have a comfortable lead to work with, we can save our guys a little bit more, and when we play the weekend series’ against the NJAC teams we’ll have more guys ready to go.”
Although the Profs dominated offensively, this win was largely fueled by the performance on the mound put together by starter Matt Choi. The transfer from Monmouth University went six innings, allowing three hits, one unearned run and two walks, while striking out five and advancing his record to 3-0 on the season.
“Just out there pitching… Trying to work ahead was probably the biggest thing I was focusing on today,” Choi said.
The Profs’ pitching staff and batting lineup have had both similarities and differences as they approach mid-season. Both units have taken their performance up a notch since returning to their home field, but unlike the lineup, the pitching staff has had trouble staying consistent throughout the season up to this point.
Ever since the March 21 home opener against Haverford College, the pitching staff has given up an average of 2.25 runs per game, compared to 6.5 runs per game in the 12 games prior.
Choi can feel himself and the pitching staff as a whole starting to hit their stride and approach their mid-season form.
“Beginning of the season, we were just working on fixing some things,” Choi said. “Now, we’re starting to see what we’re really made of.”
Although the Profs seized an 8-0 lead after two innings of play, the bench stayed loud and active throughout the entirety of the game in support of the players on the field.
Choi claimed that played a huge role in keeping his confidence high on the mound throughout his outing.
“It’s awesome having the guys behind us,” Choi said. “Especially when we’re scoring eight runs in the first two innings, it takes a big weight off my shoulders. I just know I have to pound the zone and good things will happen.”
Coach Dickson noticed the cheers too, and thinks that is just one important element associated with the culture he has built at Rowan.
“The bench is a part of being the type of program and the type of environment you want to create,” Dickson said. “You want them rooting for all different guys, whether they’re in the game or not. When they get their opportunity to go in the game, the older guys are rooting for the younger guys. That’s the type of atmosphere that you wanna create in your program.”
Unfortunately, the Profs’ eight-game winning streak came to an end on Wednesday, March 29, as they were defeated by the No. 2 nationally ranked Salisbury Seagulls.
Rowan will look to bounce back in their next matchup, a doubleheader against William Paterson University on Saturday, April 1. The two games will be the Profs’ first taste of conference play this season.
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