‘Down and out’ Citadel rallies to take opening SoCon baseball series
Near-term prospects for Citadel baseball looked grim on March 2, the day the Bulldogs committed seven errors in a loss to VCU, and lost slugging first baseman Bo Thompson to an ankle injury.
“We were down and out,” Citadel coach Fred Jordan said Sunday.
Lo and behold, as Jordan would say, the Bulldogs won their next five games, three of them without Thompson. Better still, Thompson returned to the lineup Friday night to blast three home runs in the Southern Conference opener against Samford.
The Bulldogs had their five-game win streak snapped in a 14-8 loss to Samford on Sunday at Riley Park. But after winning two of three from the defending SoCon champ, the immediate future looks better than it did a week ago for The Citadel (10-6, 2-1).
“In this league, you’ve got to be satisfied with two out of three on the weekend,” said Jordan, whose club is a game behind Georgia Southern, at 3-0 the only SoCon squad without a league loss.
Even in Sunday’s loss, The Citadel pounded out 15 hits, including four hits by Hughston Armstrong and three hits and three RBI from catcher Joe Jackson. The Citadel ranks second in the SoCon with a .301 team batting average, and with 13 home runs already has almost as many as all last season (19).
“A lot of people thought we’d be a team that just scores a run here and there,” said senior pitcher Austin Pritcher, who got the win in Friday’s 12-3 victory to push his record to 3-0. “But we’ve hit the long ball pretty well and we’re driving in runs with two outs. Coach Jordan always said, two-out RBIs win championships.”
After slugging five homers in Friday’s win, The Citadel squeezed out a 2-1 win on Saturday as starter James Reeves and three relievers held Samford (10-7, 1-2) to five hits.
“I’ve been pleased with the back end of our bullpen, and with Pritcher and Reeves,” Jordan said. “Offensively, we are probably a little bit ahead of where we thought we’d be. We just have to keep swinging.”
Sunday starter Austin Mason (1-1), a freshman right-hander, got roughed up for the first time Sunday. Samford’s all-SoCon centerfielder, Phillip Ervin, blasted a three-run homer in the first and finished 3 of 4 with four RBI.
“Samford jumped us a little there,” Jordan said. “Phillip Ervin is one of the best players in the country, and he will do that to you. I don’t know if Austin was a little too excited because it was a conference weekend, but he had pitched well until today.”
Another area of concern is defense. The Citadel committed three errors Sunday and has 28 miscues in 16 games.
“I’ve been disappointed defensively,” Jordan said. “Hopefully, as it warms up we’ll catch and throw a little bit better.”
The Citadel hosts Akron on Tuesday and Wednesday before traveling to SoCon foe Wofford next weekend.