Baseball: The difference a day makes

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April 12, 2011

1:54 AM

In the land of baseball, as in Oz, there truly is no place like home.

William and Mary proved that over the weekend, splitting a home-and-away series with Longwood. The Tribe (18-16, 9-6 CAA) was manhandled Saturday in Farmville, Va. by a score of 7-0 before it returned to Williamsburg and doled out some Plumeri Park pain with a 6-1 win.

Junior pitcher Matt Davenport’s inconsistent season continued in the first game of the series at Longwood, as the righty — after cruising through the first three innings, allowing just one base runner — imploded in the fourth inning as the Lancers turned what had been a pitcher’s duel into a blowout.

The scoreless game turned quickly in the bottom of the fourth. One walk, three singles, one double and a home run brought home five for Longwood. From there, the game was squarely in the hands of starter Cory Ramsey, who stifled the College’s bats for seven scoreless innings.

The Lancers added two in the bottom of the sixth on a solo shot from designated hitter Justin Lacy followed by a double and a throwing error, knocking Davenport out of the game with six earned runs on eight hits in five innings.

The Tribe really threatened only once all game. In the top of the seventh inning, junior first baseman Tadd Bower led off with a walk. Then, with one out, junior catcher Chris Forsten singled to right, moving Bower to second. Finally, after a two-out walk to sophomore center fielder Ryan Brown loaded the bases, the College’s lead-off man, freshman third baseman Ryan Lindemuth, looked at strike three, keeping the team’s goose-egg on the scoreboard intact.

Loading the bases didn’t score any runs, but it did knock Ramsey out of the game. But the Tribe wouldn’t fare much better against Longwood’s defense, putting just one man on base in the final two innings as reliever Kyler Morgan closed out the win for the Lancers.

“We were really disappointed with the way we played yesterday,” head coach Frank Leoni said after Sunday’s game. “We all were disappointed. I saw it from the players also … to go there and just lay an egg was not what we were looking for.”

But Sunday was a brand new day for the College, as both teams traveled to Williamsburg for a matinee. The sunny, 70 degree weather in Williamsburg stood in stark contrast to the overcast, upper-40s day in Farmville, and it was clear that senior pitcher Logan Billbrough, a native of Miami, Fl., felt right at home, tossing a complete game, one-run, four-hit masterpiece.

“You wake up in the morning, the sun comes up. It’s a new day,” Billbrough said about his mindset following the loss. “It was so warm out, I felt like I was back at home, which was great.”

But the Tribe might have been better off saving Billbrough’s performance for a day when its offense lacks, as the team’s bats gave their ace more than enough run support starting in the first inning.

Longwood pitcher Ryan Schubert struggled with his control throughout his brief two innings of work, plunking Lindemuth with his very first pitch and consistently falling behind in counts to Tribe hitters. After a double by senior second baseman Jonathan Slattery moved Lindemuth over to third, a groundout by Bower did in two outs what the team was unable to do in nine Saturday — score a run.

Slattery would star at the plate and in the field. After going 1-for-4 on Saturday, the second baseman went 4-for-5 Sunday, driving in two runs. He also saved a run in the seventh, diving to field a hard hit ground ball up the middle and flipping it to senior shortstop Derrick Osteen for a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
Schubert would last just two ineffective innings, as the College would go on to five more runs in as many different innings on RBIs from Lindemuth, Bower and Slattery. But the Tribe also got some help from the Lancers, whose sloppy defense the whole game resulted in three errors. Still, Leoni didn’t think Longwood gave away the contest.

“I don’t think that their lack of defense was the difference. Maybe we had one more run than we should have,” he said. “The difference in the game was how Logan [Billbrough] pitched.”

Billbrough, who has already taken CAA pitcher of the week honors twice this season, was indeed dominant, mixing his pitches wonderfully all day while employing pinpoint accuracy.
“He’s been doing this all year. He’s been spotting up … and he’s been doing a good job throwing downhill,” Leoni said.

The senior struck out six while walking just one, and carried a no-hitter into the sixth. The win improved his record to 4-1, while dropping his ERA to an excellent 2.52. Since his worst outing of the year, a nine-run loss at Old Dominion back in March, Billbrough has started four games, allowing just two earned in 31 innings with two complete games.

“I had good control of three pitches today,” Billbrough said. “That was important for me. “
The only Longwood run came in the seventh, as the win never really seemed in jeopardy for the latter half.
The College, currently in third place in the CAA, will host VMI Wednesday before starting a key, three-game conference series with UNC-Wilmington Friday.

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