Baseball: Monarchs cool off College

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April 28, 2009

1:55 AM

After dropping two out of three games to Old Dominion University (18-22, 10-8 CAA) last weekend, the College of William and Mary (18-22, 7-11 CAA) will need to play mistake free ball to finish sixth or better in its conference, a proposition that grows more unlikely with each error the Tribe continues to make.

“It’s disappointing. I know the entire team is disappointed,” Head Coach Frank Leoni said. “We live to fight another day, but we’re really hanging on by a thread now.”

Sunday only saw one error, but it was a costly one. A throwing error by sophomore second baseman Derek Osteen in the eighth inning gave the Monarchs an extra out and allowed runners on second and first with none down. A sacrifice bunt, an RBI double, two walks and an RBI single later and the Tribe’s lead — 4-3 entering the inning — became a 6-4 deficit.

“We had actually played error-free all day Saturday, and to that point, all day Sunday,” Leoni said.

The loss spoiled another quality start by senior righthander Jeremy Neustifter, who pitched six innings, giving up three runs on seven hits and striking out five batters. Offensively, the Tribe strung together six hits from six different players, with three of those hits coming in a three-run fourth inning, in which Osteen, freshman first baseman Tadd Bower and freshman catcher Chris Forsten each recorded an RBI.

But it wasn’t the offense that was problematic for the Tribe all weekend.

College committed seven errors in an 8-4 loss Friday night, making this the sixth time the Tribe has committed five or more errors in a game this season. The Tribe’s .947 fielding percentage ranks last in the conference.

As it stands today, the Tribe’s fielding percentage is the lowest in the four-year tenure of Leoni, as well as the lowest CAA total in the last four seasons.

“It’s disappointing the kinds of errors we’re making,” Leoni said. “For the most part, it’s the same cast of characters that not only were making the routine plays but also the exceptional plays last year.”

The Tribe’s faulty fielding puts an even greater burden on the pitching staff to turn out performances like the one junior right-hander Kevin Landry notched Saturday. Landry threw his first complete game of the season, striking out eight on the way to a 6-5 victory.

For the second time in the last week, the Tribe staged a ninth-inning comeback to procure the win. With the bases loaded and none down, Osteen drove a single into right field to bring in two runs and to tie the game at four. Senior third baseman Tyler Stampone came up next and laced a double down the line, driving in two more and giving the Tribe their first lead of the ballgame.

Landry allowed one run in the ninth, but still got the victory, improving his record to 2-5 on the year.

“We’re just going to have to play it one game at a time. We’ve got [Virginia Military Institute] tomorrow night, and we have to focus our energy on them,” Leoni said.

The College will look to gear up for its final home conference series by hosting Virginia Military Institure (16-27, 9-14 Big South) and George Washington University (19-24, 8-9 A-10) on Tuesday and Wednesday at Plumeri Park.

The squad then hosts James Madison University (27-18, 11-7 CAA) for a three-game series starting Friday.

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