The season is young and so is the program, which has made this spring a learning experience for the NMU club baseball squad.
The team was in action last Saturday as they took on the Marquette Blues at Haley Memorial Field on the corner of Presque Isle Avenue and Wright Street. The ’Cats lost 27-5 in a game that ended after the fifth inning.
Head coach Kane Beauchamp said there are areas his team needs to improve in, but realizes the challenges that come with starting a new program.
“There’s a lot of stuff we have to work on, but as long as we keep making progress in the right direction, we’ll keep improving and that’s the important part right now,” Beauchamp said.
One of the areas the ’Cats are looking to improve on is getting a better jump to the game.
NMU led off the first inning without a hit and the Blues responded by taking on three runs in the bottom of the inning.
“With a young program like this, we have to kind of go through the growing pains that everyone is going to go through at that point, so once we do that we’ll be alright,” Beauchamp said.
In the second inning, NMU was once again held hitless and it was the Blues pouring on seven runs to jump out to an early 10-0 lead.
Left fielder and captain Brandon Frazho said the pitching staff, which is currently at four, is in desperate need of numbers.
“I was definitely a little bit disappointed; we ran out of pitching is basically what it came down to,” Frazho said. “We started out slow, going down 10 runs pretty fast; pitching was struggling out there, definitely something we’re going to have to recruit next year.”
Beauchamp said the pitching staff has shown some promise and that a lot of the problems come down to getting the offense and pitching on the same page.
“We had a couple of good performances today pitching-wise,” Beauchamp said. “We just couldn’t sustain it and we couldn’t get any offense going to help those pitchers out because the reality is that if we put together a couple of runs on the board, it would have helped our momentum and helped that shift instead of tilting the table in their direction.”
The Wildcats were able to respond with a big fourth inning, knocking in five runs and cutting the Blues’ lead in half, bringing the score to 10-5.
Outfielder Hunter Walp ripped a two-run double for NMU. Frazho said the team has been able to generate some offense in the middle innings.
“We keep each other pumped up out there and we’re like, ‘Hey we got this. We’ve done it before,’” Frazho said. “We tend to do the comebacks in the fourth or fifth inning, so we figured we’d string it together and we started stringing together some hits, some walks and it turned out to be a decent inning.”
The Blues responded with a huge fifth inning, knocking in 14 runs and forcing the Wildcats to make adjustments to their rotation players.
Though tough at first, Beauchamp believes the move will help the ’Cats in the future.
“The nice part about that is we get guys that we put in positions that don’t normally get put there,” Beauchamp said. “So we’re able to kind of roll with the punches in a game like this, where we’re kind of struggling to get guys that are full of energy and have enough stamina to finish a game out pitching-wise.”
One of those moves came in the fifth inning for the ’Cats, as catcher Dalton Looze made his first-ever appearance as pitcher, after throwing the day before in batting practice. Beauchamp said it’s not a move he likes to make.
“I don’t like putting catchers on the mound for the simple reason that they’re already tired from catching,” Beauchamp said. “If a guy throws 65 pitches, that’s 65 squats for the catcher and your legs are going to be a little tired regardless of who the person is after that.”
With a shortened staff, Beauchamp is going to work with the pitchers on adjusting their techniques, including focusing more on their form and body control to get the most out of their time on the mound.
“One of the things that we can do is really kind of tweak some of the people we do have throwing and work on a couple of things to tweak technique so that it’s going to be able to allow them to pitch a little bit longer,” Beauchamp said.
The ’Cats have yet to set a date for their next game, but they’re looking to scrimmage the Ishpeming High School team. Frazho said the club has drawn a lot of interest, but is still looking for more players.
“I still get emails all the time with people saying they just heard of us,” Frazho said. “We have ads in TV 6, The Mining Journal, The North Wind and Radio X. The fact that President Wong came and threw out the first pitch shows the support from the faculty and staff.”
Those interested in joining the team can contact Brandon Frazho at (906) 227-4572 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org