The weather in Gambier on Sunday afternoon reflected potential futures for Lords baseball: Clear skies to the east reflected hope of smooth sailing through the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) tournament, while ominous storm clouds to the west beckoned the team toward a more difficult playoff picture.
Last week, infielder Jono Chafe ’17 said the Lords’ (20-15, NCAC 6-8) performance in their four-game series against the Allegheny College Gators (19-12, 10-4), their final series of the regular season, would determine Kenyon’s seed and hosting status in the first round of the playoffs. Heavy rains accompanied thunder and lightning to wash two of those games from the Lords’ schedule.
Allegheny made quick work of the Lords in the first game, an 8-2 affair. The second game of the series, originally scheduled for Saturday, was postponed to Sunday due to rain. After the Gators demolished the Lords 17-4 in that game, Kenyon’s offense was a bit out of sorts — a symptom of which was leaving multiple men on base, according to Head Coach Matt Burdette.
“We weren’t able to cash in,” Burdette said. “We had some really good opportunities in game one, to give us a little bit of a cushion. [The Gators] were able to take those same chances and cash in.”
Burdette added that the team’s hitting has been “consistently inconsistent” over the course of the season, citing a poor team batting average with runners in scoring position and with two outs.
“All of those analytics that equal driving in runs — we haven’t been able to do it,” he said.
Weather-related difficulties halted what seemed to be a turnaround for the Lords in the third game. In the fourth inning, Jesse Bogacz ’18 found himself pitching with a one-run deficit and a runner on after Allegheny’s Dan Bonnett singled on a frozen-rope line drive into shallow right field. Bonnett stole second easily and took third on a passed ball, but Bogacz, who has been an anchor on the staff this season, struck out the next two batters to end the inning and keep the Lords’ hopes alive.
In the end, the weather had the last say. Shortly before 2 p.m., the game was suspended due to lightning, and the team helped roll a tarp over the field. The remaining two games were ultimately cancelled.
Kenyon will begin postseason play on Friday by facing conference rival Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU; 25-11, 11-5) in a best-of-three series in Delaware, Ohio. The winner of that round, known as the NCAC Crossover Series, will automatically advance to the final four of the conference tournament in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Burdette said Kenyon’s success in the Crossover Series will depend on the ability of its pitching staff and defense to contain OWU’s potent offense, which features a strong lineup from the top of the order to the bottom.
“No matter what happens going into the weekend, we know we’re going to face their number-one pitcher and we know we’re going to face their best nine,” outfielder Jason Clebowicz ’19 said. “What it’s going to come down to is not one player being productive, but a series of players being productive.” Clebowicz also believes the team’s ability to effectively play small ball — using bunts and hit-and-run plays to move baserunners from station to station — will help the team excel against OWU’s best pitching.
Sam Gillespie ’16, a workhorse with a team-best 60.0 innings pitched, a 6-4 record and 59 strikeouts on the season, will get the nod in the first game of the Crossover Series.