By Cody Weems
Crusader baseball seems to have turned the corner after a slow start to the season. The team shut out DeSales University last week before sweeping a double header against Robert Morris on Wednesday.
Sophomore pitcher and pre-physical therapy major Ian Ekery got his first start of the season against DeSales and picked up the win while giving up just five hits over six innings in the 3-0 win.
“It was actually my first start in probably a year and a half. I’m not going to lie. I had a few butterflies,” Ekery said. “We figured with the wind blowing out that they were going to maybe try and do some things that worked to my advantage.”
Head coach Ben Shipp said that Ekery took full advantage of his starting opportunity.
“Ian did a really great job,” Shipp said. “We just wanted to get him a start. We wanted to give him a chance to prepare himself and really see what he could do. He did all the things that winning pitchers have to do.”
The Cru got behind early in both games against Robert Morris, but the bats came alive as they managed to pull off two come-from-behind victories to win 9-3 and 5-3 respectively.
“Our bullpen really were the stars of our doubleheader,” Shipp said. “We had people come in and really stabilize the situation and gave our offense enough time go get on their feet.”
Even though the team boasts one of the better rotations in the conference, Shipp finds comfort in the fact that he can rely on his pitching staff if need be.
“We’ve had some really nice performances from our bullpen,” Shipp said. “It’s really reassuring to know when your starters don’t have their best stuff, there’s not going to be a drop off when we go to the bullpen.”
The Cru pulled to 7-7 before entering conference play last weekend against Texas Lutheran.
Senior pitcher and exercise sport science major Sam VanHoozer said the wins have been valuable for the mentality of the young team.
“We finally found where we need to be confidence wise, playing wise,” VanHoozer said. “Coming into conference with a four-game win streak is very good for our confidence.”
While the team has been hitting well lately, VanHoozer stressed the importance of not getting discouraged if the runs aren’t coming.
“If we get down, we don’t need to put up the bats. We need to keep them hot, and I think that’s the biggest deal for us,” Vanhoozer said. “Don’t do anything special.”
While the offensive production so far has been a nice surprise, the heart of the team continues to be the pitching staff.
“Pitching and defense is huge,” Ekery said. “The old adage says good pitching will beat good hitting on any day. The hitting will be there, as we’ve seen the past few games, but I can’t preach it enough that pitching and defense is the key.”
The Cru looked to keep momentum against Texas Lutheran in their double header on Saturday March 9. After a hard-fought series, the Crusaders fell to TLU in a 6-2 and 7-4 loss.
The Crusaders will resume play in Brownwood against Howard Payne this weekend in search of three conference wins and a swing in momentum.