A pair of splits

Men’s baseball team repeats last year’s opening

The men’s baseball team in their first home action on Sunday at Megaffin Field.
The men’s baseball team in their first home action on Sunday at Megaffin Field.
Alisa Yocom

With the roster finalized and jerseys handed out, the Queen’s Golden Gaels baseball team readied themselves for their first test of the season last weekend. However, they were not ready to begin the 2004 campaign just as they had last season’s—with a split.

It was a tale of two teams who showed up for last weekend’s double-headers—the first pair in Ottawa, the second at Queen’s. The one team was an offensive juggernaut overpowering its weak opponents. The second was a feeble legion who barely mustered up enough energy to compete. Coach Perry Conrad had no idea what to make of his team’s Jekyll and Hyde performance over the weekend.

“It was a funny thing that happened this weekend,” he said. “We seemed to have hit the highest high and the lowest low in the matter of only a couple of hours.” Although slightly disappointed with his squad’s play, Conrad said he viewed the split optimistically.

“I will gladly walk away with an opening weekend of 2-2,” he said. “I remember when we couldn’t pull out a win at all in the first four games. Playing .500 baseball through the first weekend will be easier on the team to move forward than to be at 0-4 and having to play from behind the rest of the way.” The experience of the split series is nothing new to coach Conrad and the veterans of this team. In fact, last year the boys posted an identical opening day record and went on to finish at .500 with an 8-8 record.

Kevin Meade, the team’s starting shortstop who made big contributions to both wins with some clutch hits, believes the weekend results are only going to inspire the team in the coming weeks.

“To play .500 baseball is to play mediocre ball,” he said. “If you ask anyone on this team, they’ll tell you that we are not a mediocre club and now we realize that we need to prove that to our fans, our school and ourselves.”

There were moments on the weekend—primarily during the first two games of both double-headers—the team looked to be unstoppable. Starting against Ottawa on Saturday, last year’s All-Canadian pitcher Ben McPhee, Comm ’05, looked extremely strong in his four-inning performance, striking out four and walking none. His performance was aided by the team providing him with three runs in top part of the first inning before he even stepped out on the mound.

Timely hitting and three stolen bases by Jason Sukhraj, ArtSci ’06, as well as Nathaniel Erskine-Smith’s first career save, helped the Golden Gaels hand Ottawa a 7-2 smacking. Nonetheless, in Saturday’s second game the Queen’s team pulled a Jekyll & Hyde-esque transformation. After four innings of no-hit baseball by third-year engineer Adam Ben-Aron, the team only led 1-0. With offensive production by the Gaels totally absent, the Ottawa Gee Gees climbed back to take the game by a final score of 6-3. Absent from the box score was the hand injury suffered by second baseman Ben Concessi.

The Gaels returned to Kingston for their home opener against the Carleton Ravens on Sunday. Third-year pitcher Lorne Berger started, and managed to hold the Ravens’ bats to just three hits over four innings while striking out four. Spotted a 5-0 lead, primarily thanks to Matt Cable who broke out of his semi-slump to go 3-4, Berger passed the ball off to rookie Jason Garrett, who held Carleton down just enough to secure a 7-1 victory.

However, that sweet feeling was short-lived as a terrific pitching performance by Mike Arsenault in the second game proved to be for naught. Getting their first taste of university hitting, the Gaels’ rookie pitchers allowed nine runs in just three innings.

Coach Conrad explained his decision to give his starters short outings despite their success. "We're in for the long haul and I wanted to see the other guys as well as limiting the starter's pitch count so [that] they don't blow out their arms," he said.

The pitchers could not take all the blame for the loss, as the potent lineup from the first game could only muster two runs in the 10-2 defeat.

On a weekend in which the Queen’s team hit some bumps in the road, the starting pitching provided a positive building block. “I know that the guys we have selected can hit,” Conrad said. “No one understands that it takes a couple of games for these guys to get comfortable in the batters box. The one thing that I enjoyed was that we got quality starts from all four of starting pitchers and good outings by our bullpen.” When the right team shows up for both games, the Gaels appear to have what it takes to win the division again. “We need to stay up for both games,” Sukhraj said.

The Gaels have a second chance to show what they can do when they play this weekend at Durham College on Saturday and at home against York Sunday.

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