By ZACH GILLELAND
What: No. 24 Salisbury baseball hosts No. 12 Oswego St.
Where: SU Baseball Field
When: 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. (30 minutes after Game One conclusion)
How to Watch: Sea Gull Sports Network
After a 2-0 record to start the season, the Salisbury University baseball team finds themselves on a three-game skid, capped off by a weekend sweep at the hands of No. 1 Cortland St. The road does not get any easier for the Sea Gulls, as they face a twelfth-ranked Oswego St. team that finished 35-11 a season ago.
Last Meeting: The Lakers defeated the Sea Gulls 15-6 in a game that saw 31 combined hits. Oswego St. senior third baseman Eric Hamilton drove in six runs, and Salisbury starting pitcher Pete Grasso was knocked out of the game in the third inning after giving up five runs off seven hits.
Salisbury: The stretch of tough opponents continues for the Sea Gulls as they again face one of the nation’s strongest teams. Sunday saw Salisbury’s biggest defeat of the season with a five-run loss to Cortland St. Saturday yields an opportunity for the maroon and gold to turn things around.
Pitching: Walks and defense have been the source of Salisbury’s woes on the mound. The Sea Gulls’ pitching staff has surrendered 33 walks in the team’s first five games and their 7.20 ERA is second worst in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC). Locating the strike zone will be key for the pitching staff as the Lakers’ offense returns four All-Conference players. If Salisbury has a difficult time throwing strikes, then Saturday could be a long day for the Gulls.
Offense: Salisbury’s ability to hit the ball is the key to most of their success this season. The Sea Gulls scored 10 or more runs in three out of five games to start the season. University of Maryland transfer Justin Meekins leads the maroon and gold with a .471 batting average and sophomore infielders Jack Barry and Jay Perry have contributed two home runs each. The Sea Gulls’ offense was limited to only two runs in Sunday’s loss to Cortland St., so the ball may be ready to fly out of the park come Saturday.
Salisbury Player to Watch: Senior Pete Grasso
A dual threat for Salisbury, Grasso has been called on to hit and pitch for the Sea Gulls. One of the team’s most consistent hitters throughout the years, the senior infielder has struggled at the plate early on, holding a .238 batting average. On the mound, the right-hander had a promising outing against No.1 Cortland State, throwing four innings of shutout ball in relief. Whether he is on the rubber or at the dish, the Sea Gulls will rely heavily on Grasso.
Oswego St.: The Lakers head south to begin their season after being knocked out of the NCAA Tournament by Tufts. One of the more balanced teams in the country, Oswego St. fields a strong pitching staff and offense. With 11 seniors on the roster and plenty of veteran talent, the team is poised for another big season.
Pitching: To combat the Sea Gulls’ offensive firepower, the Lakers will turn to a pitching staff that was third in all of Division III with a 2.90 ERA and threw five shutouts. Anchoring the staff is second-team all-SUNYAC right-hander Robert Donnelly, who led the way with a 2.07 ERA and pitched three complete games. A matchup between one of Division III’s best offenses in Salisbury and pitching staffs in Oswego St., it will be interesting to see who gets the upper hand.
Offense: Like their pitching staff, the Lakers’ offensive members are also strong at the plate. With four All-SUNYAC players in its lineup, Oswego St. can put up runs at a premium. Hamilton led the team last season in all Triple Crown categories, posting a .399 batting average with 13 homeruns and 55 RBIs. Adding All-SUNYAC teammates Zach Kollar, Myles Kutscher and Mike Dellicari into the mix, Salisbury’s pitching staff may have a difficult time cooling the bats of the Lakers.
Oswego St. Player to Watch: Senior third baseman Eric Hamilton
Tied for seventh in Division III in home runs, Hamilton is a strong presence in the middle of the order. A strong contact hitter, the third baseman struck out just 12 times in 173 at-bats a season ago. With an offense that exceeds in getting on base, Hamilton will be called upon to drive in runs for Oswego St.