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UMBC baseball starts slow, just like last year

To say the least, the Retrievers baseball team is off to a rough start. After a solid 28-23 season in 2016, the Retrievers have stumbled out of the gate. As of Sunday, the team is off to a 1-5 start. The scores do not give any signs of optimism early on.

Through six games, the Retrievers have a point differential of minus-19. In that same span, they have allowed 40 runs. In all but one game, they allowed at least four runs.

With such a slow start, the Retrievers can’t point to one specific reason for their early futility. They have a grotesque .203/.284/.255 batting line with no home runs. They have struck out 57 times so far and have only walked 19 times.

In addition, the Retrievers have struggled on the mound. UMBC pitchers have a combined 6.35 ERA in the first half dozen games. Opponents are hitting .288 against the Retrievers.

The first three games were not pretty. The Retirevers faced the Liberty University Flames and the St. John’s University Red Storm in the Lexington County tournament. In the season opener against the Flames,  UMBC blew a 5-4 lead in the seventh inning. Liberty redshirt senior Sammy Taormina smacked a three run homer over the right field fence to put the Flames ahead for good.

The next two games against the Red Storm were bloodbaths. St. John’s outscored the Retrievers 23-3 in the two game series. UMBC used eight pitchers in the two games, giving up 30 hits, including nine extra base hits. In the brief series, the Retrievers batted .246 with just one extra base hit.

The following weekend’s series against the Gardner-Webb University Running Bulldogs was not as lopsided; however, the Retrievers still struggled. They took a 3-0 lead into the fourth inning when the Bulldogs began to storm back. Sophomore third baseman/shortstop Luke Kaesmeyer’s run-batted in (RBI) single and sophomore pitcher Michael Austin’s two wild pitches tied the game up. Gardner-Webb scored the deciding run in the bottom of the eighth on an RBI double by junior shortstop Paul Trick.

The final game of the series provided some hope for the Retrievers. Sophomore righty Jacob Christian pitched a splendid game. He hurled seven and two-thirds innings of shutout baseball, allowing two hits and striking out twelve in a 6-0 victory.

While things may seem bleak now, there is reason for optimism. That reason is found in last season’s calendar. Last season, the Retrievers started 1-6 as well while on their way to a 2-9 record. However, the Retrievers rebounded by winning 11 of their next 12 games, ultimately finishing the season five games over .500.

It is only March, so there is plenty of time for the Retrievers to turn their fortunes around. Their next chances come this week. The Retrievers go to the University of Delaware to face the Red Hens. They then finally play their home opener against the Towson University Tigers. Then, the Retrievers head back out on the road to face University of North Carolina Asheville.