It has been a tale of two seasons for the NYU baseball team this year, which looks like a much improved ball club lately.
The Violets kicked off their inaugural season with a 6-12 record, including a few mercy-rule losses at the UAA tournament in Florida. Since the poor start, however, the team has bounced back to the tune of a 9-7 record.
The team strung together five straight wins before a late comeback by Bard College on Saturday snapped the season-high streak. NYU has been fueled by some solid pitching performances, including a complete game shutout by freshman pitcher Michael Vokulich last Wednesday against Cairn University.
While the numbers do not quite show it — they have a 5.79 team ERA for the season — the Violets have been improving on mound. During their recent 12 game homestand, Violet pitchers posted a 3.71 ERA, despite only putting up a rate of 4.82 strikeouts per nine innings. The low strikeout rate means they have probably gotten lucky with their results, but it also means they found other ways of getting outs.
“Our problems early on came from a lot of free passes, walks and hit by pitches,” Vokulich said. “Now pitchers are going right after guys and demanding contact. It may not result in a lot of strikeouts but it creates a better tempo and keeps our defense locked in.”
The Violets have also been hitting the ball consistently well throughout the year, which freshman pitcher Cameron Serapilio-Frank says makes all the difference when he takes the mound.
“Along with our defense, keeping our hitting consistent is a point of emphasis,” Serapilio-Frank said. “Anytime you can throw with the comfort of a lead, it definitely makes our jobs as pitchers much easier.”
The Violets have only slugged .361 as a team with three homers, two of which came from sophomore catcher CJ Picerni. But they have found other ways to win, and they currently sit at four games under .500 with eight games left to play.
Much of the Violets’ offensive success comes from patience the hitters have displayed at the plate, as the team has walked at a 10 percent rate all year, leading to a fantastic .378 OBP. Picerni says part of this is due to the approach that head coach Doug Kimbler works on with the players.
“We have definitely emphasized on not striking out,” Picerni said. “Coach Kimbler is really big on the two-strike approach and we work on it day in and out and it has been showing in our games. We have cut down in strikeouts and in turn our on base percentage has gone up.”
Despite the recent success, Serapilio-Frank said that there are still things the team needs to work on as the season comes to a close.
“We need to get better at making adjustments and responding to adversity,” Serapilio-Frank said. “We have always had the talent, but we need to start translating that into big game wins.”
It is true that the team has not seen the type of competition that they saw at the UAA tournament — their opponents on this 9-7 stretch have a winning percentage of .263. However, they are beating the teams they are supposed to beat, and the success is giving the team confidence.
“Good things will happen when the ball is put in play and I think we have seen that a lot this year and guys are starting to understand it now,” Picerni said. “Guys are just stepping up and doing their jobs now. There’s nowhere to go but up now and that’s really exciting for our future.”
The Violets begin a five game home stand starting today against Maritime College at 7 p.m.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, April 22 print edition. Email Alex Bazeley at [email protected]