Baseball splits doubleheader

A member of the Queen’s pitching staff follows through.
A member of the Queen’s pitching staff follows through.
Queen’s came out swinging against York.
Queen’s came out swinging against York.

The Queen’s baseball team, last year’s Canadian Intercollegiate Baseball Association champions, opened their season by playing .500 ball over four weekend games.

The Gaels won the first game and lost the second in each of two doubleheaders against their conference rivals, facing Durham College in Oshawa on Saturday and York University at home on Sunday.

“We were a little disappointed we couldn’t win the second games. That’s something we’ll have to work on,” said head coach Perry Conrad.

In Saturday’s first game, the Gaels rallied from an early 1-0 deficit to hand Durham a resounding 8-2 defeat on the strength of solid hitting up and down the batting order. Rookie Graham Fulton, who is stepping into the big shoes of departed Gael first baseman and 2004 CIBA All-Canadian Darryl Allen, was a standout, scoring two runs and adding two singles and one stolen base.

“We’re training [Fulton] at first [base] and he did a great job for us,” Conrad said.

The wheels fell off the wagon for the Gaels in the second game, however, as they went meekly down to defeat in a 10-1 thrashing.

With the Queen’s batters hitting mostly singles and the defence surrendering five runs in the fifth inning, the coaching staff took the opportunity to try out some of the new members of the pitching staff. With 14 men, this year’s is one of the biggest staffs a Gael team has ever carried.

“We didn’t play very well in the second game, so when the wheels started falling off, we put [a bunch of] pitchers in to see them in action,” Conrad said.

The head coach said he’s happy to have so many pitchers this season because it affords the team the flexibility to accommodate each pitcher’s preferred style and allows the hurlers to get some much needed rest days in the tight schedule.

Sunday’s landscape looked much the same as Saturday’s, as the Gaels came out on top 5-2 over York in a competitive first contest, but proceeded to lose the second matchup 9-8 after giving up seven runs in the sixth inning.

In the first outing, Queen’s scored two runs in each of the tense fourth and fifth innings, and then tightened up on defence, escaping two bases-loaded situations in the top of the seventh and final inning to pull the win out of the fire.

Second-year Gael hurler Albert Lee was a standout for Conrad, pitching four innings and allowing only one run.

“He did a good job for us, and we’re looking forward to good things from him,” Conrad said.

The second game of the day was once again the Achilles heel for Queen’s, as they saw a six-run lead collapse in the bottom of the disastrous sixth inning, wasting a three-run home run in the top of the third from center fielder and 2004 All-Canadian Jason Sukhraj.

“The players know what they need to do to close out the games, but that fourth game on Sunday is hard,” Conrad said.

Because the baseball season is so short—the playoffs are set to begin on Oct. 8—the players are forced to play similar double-headers nearly every weekend, and conditioning becomes key.

“We see our season as an extension of the summer season, so players should come to camp in shape because they’ve been playing all summer,” Conrad said. “Our real goal [for the season] is to keep them in shape.”

After a brief but successful training camp that began on Sept. 7 and ended with the weekend’s games, the Gaels found themselves carrying a full roster of 25 for the first time ever.

With 17 returnees and eight rookies, Conrad said, the team is looking to get the new players used to the rigours of university ball so they’re ready to take over from the eight veterans who will depart at the end of this season.

Conrad said he’s pleased so far with this year’s crop of rookies as they work to fill in the gaps left by powerhouses like Allen, pitcher Ben McPhee and third baseman Tyler Johnson.

“We got some pitchers, and we acquired Todd Larson, a first-year, who’s playing some third base,” Conrad said.

“The pitching staff is really coming along, and we can always use pitchers. Especially when we’re playing four games per weekend and another on Wednesday.”

The team can also look forward to the return of veteran catcher Matt Cable, who returned to Queen’s for his Master’s degree but sprained his ankle playing recreational basketball. He is expected to come off the disabled list in three weeks’ time.

In the meantime, the Gaels are looking ahead to tomorrow’s rematch with Durham at home, and to testing their skills against a revised conference line-up.

Queen’s is now a part of a conference with Durham, York and George Brown College, as Ottawa and Carleton were moved into the new northern conference to fill the gap left by the withdrawal of Laval University’s ball club from interuniversity competition.

“That’ll cut down on our travel time, but we’ll miss the competition,” Conrad said. He added that he’s looking forward to more battles with York, whom the Gaels will next meet at home on Homecoming Saturday, Sept. 24.

“We really appreciate all the fans who come out,” he said. “We play with wood bats so it’s small ball, with short hits and lots of stealing bases—it gets pretty exciting.”

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