On April 29, the Webster University baseball team won its sixth consecutive SLIAC title by…
Baseball team keeps rolling, wins 8 of 9 games
After losing three of four games from March 19 through 30, the Webster University baseball team reeled off eight wins in a row by an average margin of 9.9 runs per game. But the Gorloks’ winning streak ended April 12, as they lost the second game of a doubleheader against Westminster College.
Webster won the first of two games against the Blue Jays in comeback fashion, 13-9. The Gorloks trailed Westminster 7-0 in the sixth inning, but came back and won the game in the 10th inning.
Webster wasn’t as fortunate in the nightcap. Westminster held on for a 4-3 victory. The loss dropped the Gorloks’ record to 16-5 overall and 9-2 in St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.
Webster had no problem sweeping Principia earlier in the week in a road doubleheader, as the Gorloks cruised to 23-0 and 9-0 victories over the Panthers on April 9. In the 23 run win, Webster’s largest victory of the season, freshman starting pitcher Dylan Dean Smith allowed two hits in five innings to earn the win.
The Gorloks scored 12 runs in the third inning to bust the game open. Freshman outfielder Joe Gerace hit two home runs and went 3 for 4 with seven RBI.
The second game of the Principia doubleheader was more of the same. Freshman starting pitcher Brandon Shaw threw five innings and allowed only three hits, earning him his first collegiate victory.
The Gorloks scored all nine of their runs within the first three innings of the game. Junior catcher Dustin List hit a three-run bomb, and senior infielder Anthony Genna and sophomore centerfielder Cody Stevenson also went deep for the Gorloks.
“Cody Stevenson is the key to our offense,” coach Bill Kurich said. “He’s our leadoff man. He had been struggling for the first 10 to 15 games of the season. When he gets on base, our offense goes. He’s one of the fastest young men in Division III baseball, or baseball at any division. He creates a lot of problems when he gets on.”
Stevenson has stolen 25 bases on 26 attempts for the season. Collectively, Webster is one of the best teams in the nation at stealing bases. The Gorloks have taken 99 bases on 117 attempts for a success rate of nearly 85 percent.
Webster put that speed to good use on April 8, when they beat down Principia 19-4 at GCS Ballpark. The Gorloks stole 15 bases in the 15-run win, including four steals by senior infielder Nathan Shelton.
Genna hit a grand slam in the sixth inning and also scored three runs. For the season, Genna leads the Gorloks in total bases (44), RBI (28), hits (27) and home runs (3). Genna also has a .391 batting average.
“What we’d like to do is have our hitters do as well as our pitchers have been doing,” Genna said. “It’s great that our bench is stepping up and coming up with key hits. We have a lot of depth on our team. Everyone has confidence.”
In the 19-4 win over Principia, another freshman starting pitcher, Zach Schneider, went five innings and gave up a pair of hits and one unearned run. Schneider struck out 9 and walked none to improve his record to 2-3 on the season. Schneider has a 1.71 ERA in over 31 innings pitched. He said that throwing the ball inside has been the key to his success so far this year.
“In high school, I never really threw inside to batters,” Schneider said. “This is really my first year throwing inside, and it’s helped a lot. We pitchers do a lot of training, running and throwing everyday. That has helped, along with increasing my miles per hour by about two or three.”
Schneider, Smith and Shaw lead a senior-less pitching staff. Despite their lack of college pitching experience, Kurich has confidence that the freshmen trio can get the job done.
“Those are three guys that we expect big things out of,” Kurich said. “I really expected Zach to come in and be pretty effective right away. He was an outstanding high school pitcher who we were very excited to get as a recruit. Dylan’s a guy that’s worked hard over the offseason. He’s put on 20 pounds and added five to six miles per hour on his fastball. He has become a major factor in our rotation.
“Brandon’s an extremely talented young man who hasn’t had as much success in his first three or four starts. He’s another good one who is going to be very successful for us in the future. The thing about those guys is they throw strikes and get ahead. All of them have good velocity and good arm strength.”
Schneider said the large freshmen class, which makes up 14 of the 26 players on the roster, has gotten the team’s routine down, which has allowed the group to contribute right away.
“We basically hit the ground running,” Schneider said. “We picked up the things that (Kurich) wants us to do. This far into the season, we don’t really view ourselves as freshmen anymore. We’re just all one big team, and we’re all contributing as much as we can.”
Webster plays at Washington University (21-13) on April 15 at 3 p.m. Webster returns to conference action on April 16, as the Gorloks face Eureka College at 6 p.m. at GCS Ballpark.
On April 17, Webster once again takes on Eureka at home, this time in a doubleheader beginning at noon. The Gorloks have 19 games remaining on their schedule before the SLIAC postseason tournament begins on May 12.