By ZACH GILLELAND
What: Salisbury baseball (7-5) hosts St. Mary’s (5-6, 0-1 CAC)
Where: SU Baseball Field
When: Saturday, Noon and 2:30 p.m. (30 minutes after Game One conclusion)
How to Watch: Sea Gull Sports Network
Following a no-hitter at the arms of the Neumann Knights, the Salisbury University baseball team returns home Saturday for its Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) opener against St. Mary’s College (Md.) in a doubleheader.
Last Season: The teams met twice last season in St. Mary’s City, Md., with Salisbury defeating the Seahawks 15-8 and 14-2.
Salisbury: After winning five consecutive games, the Sea Gulls seemed to find a rhythm. Salisbury capped off a strong week that culminated in a doubleheader sweep over Dickinson College on Sunday, displaying solid pitching and defense. Things unraveled for the Gulls on Tuesday, falling 6-1 to the Knights and no-hit for the first time under coach Troy Brohawn.
Offense: Usually a strong point for the team, the powerful bats of the maroon and gold could not produce a hit Tuesday, with their only run coming from a throwing error that scored senior second baseman Pete Grasso. A no-hitter would have been difficult to predict, as the Sea Gulls scored seven or more runs in their previous six games. Wanting to put Tuesday’s performance behind them and facing a St. Mary’s pitching staff with a 6.39 earned run average (ERA), look for the offense to turn things around.
Pitching: Struggling in the beginning of the season, Salisbury’s pitching staff has been solid as of late with an ERA of 2.66 in their last five games. All signs point to a combination of senior righties Jeff Oster and Micah Wells on the mound Saturday. Both starters are coming off quality starts, with Wells pitching a six-inning shutout against Franklin & Marshall. The bullpen’s recent performance is promising, with the unit surrendering only three runs in 14 innings of work last week. A .244 batting average from the Seahawks does not seem threatening, but the Sea Gulls will hope for another strong performance from their staff.
Player to Watch: Senior right-hander Micah Wells
A tale of two starts for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte transfer, Wells rebounded nicely after a rough performance against Oswego St., surrendering four hits, two walks, allowing no runs and striking out five in six innings of work. The senior displayed solid command and kept hitters off-balanced. Wells will look to keep things rolling against a St. Mary’s offense that has yet to hit a home run this season.
St. Mary’s: The Seahawks come into Saturday’s doubleheader on a two-game skid, including an 8-7 extra-innings loss at Mary Washington on Wednesday.
Offense: Possessing the CAC’s worst batting average, the St. Mary’s offense may have a difficult task cracking a Salisbury staff who is pitching its best baseball of the season. Although it has struggled, there are some bright spots to this lineup. Redshirt freshman first baseman Jay Hammett leads the team offensively, hitting .400 and providing a team-high 10 runs batted in (RBI). Junior catcher Sean Goodie and sophomore center fielder Lucas Kraft can get on base, with both holding a .500 on-base percentage. Seven times the Seahawks scored five runs or less in a game this season, so runs may be difficult to come by on Saturday.
Pitching: Thirteen players have taken the hill for a St. Mary’s pitching staff sporting a 6.39 ERA. Freshman righty Zach Thompson is the workhorse of the staff so far, winning three of the team’s five victories and holding a 2.84 ERA in 25 and one-third innings pitched. Senior right-hander Graham Haliskoe is another Seahawk with a strong start to the season, allowing zero runs in five relief appearances. St. Mary’s hopes to find more consistency out of the rest their staff, with the rest of the staff donning an 8.89 ERA.
Player to Watch: Freshman first baseman Jay Hammett
Saturday’s doubleheader sees a familiar face, as Hammett returns to Salisbury after transferring from the Sea Gulls. The first baseman redshirted for SU last season and is enjoying a strong start in his first season at St. Mary’s. The product out of Chopticon High School recorded a hit in all but two starts this season and has only struck out twice in 35 at-bats. The Seahawks ability to score runs will be hinged on the redshirt freshman.