Baseball having offensive surge this April

By Joseph Wetzler, Staff Writer

April 24, 2013

Dane McDermott“It’s a combination of the time and energy that our coaching staff has put into the offense and our guys coming out and getting a lot of extra work.”

Those were the words baseball coach Craig Cozart chose when asked about his team’s offensive explosion during their five games during the week of April 8. HPU racked up 42 runs on 77 hits, while going 3-2. They had two losses against cross-town ACC foe Wake Forest, with the first coming in a 14-inning battle at Willard Stadium. HPU finished the week strong with a sweep of their Big South opponent Radford.

The Panthers have been getting contributions up and down the lineup. Senior OF/P Ryan Retz leads the team with a .371 batting average to go along with a 3-2 pitching record. He has been the leader of this club and has thrived because of the talent around him. Last year he tried to do too much to make this team successful. Cozart believes the younger guys gaining more experience have made Retz calmer and more valuable to the team.

“Now he is completely relaxed at the plate, hitting in the five-hole with Josh Spano and Spencer Angelis hitting ahead of him and Adam Barry hitting behind him. He’s got protection at the plate now,” said Cozart.

Sophomores Spano (.331) and Angelis (.327) have also contributed tremendously this season. Both of these guys can play catcher and first base, and they hit number three and four in the lineup. This allows them to be interchangeable and give Cozart more flexibility with the lineup.

The Panthers have been getting help on offense from the whole lineup recently. Adam Barry, Devin Bujnovsky, and Willie Medina have gotten hot in the last few weeks, all of their batting averages being right around .300.

HPU even got a major contribution from seldom-used Stephen Wytiaz coming into the series with Radford.

Cozart believes that the looseness of this team is important to their success. These Panthers thrive when they are giving each other a hard time and keeping everybody in good spirits. The jokes are all in good fun and the heckling seems to bring the team closer together.

“Our dugout is heckling our guys almost more than the opposing team might be,” said Cozart.

The Panthers’ timing has drastically improved in recent weeks. Cozart defines timing as taking advantage of opportunities when they arrive. Earlier in the year they would get good pitching in tight situations but wouldn’t capitalize at the plate. Now they are getting good situational pitching as well as turning in those big innings. Baseball is a game of converting in close situations, and lately HPU has been capitalizing on these opportunities.

The Panthers know they must execute defensively, and that will come. Right now they can enjoy their hot streak at the plate and continue outscoring teams. Cozart knows his team is capable of playing deep into the Big South Tournament if they stay focused and capitalize in opportunistic situations.

“If we play clean defense, continue to pitch at a high level, have timely hitting, and get the occasional big inning then I think that’s a formula for winning a championship,” said Cozart.