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Identity issues plague Bobcats in early-season crisis

There’s something to be said about a team setting a program record of 30 wins in a season. But it also raises concern when that same team is off to a 6-18 start just a year later.

So what’s going on with Quinnipiac baseball?

MAAC coaches ranked the Bobcats No. 2 in the preseason poll, but they certainly haven’t lived up to those expectations.
ting at the bottom of the conference at 0-6.

“We just have to play better baseball,” head coach John Delaney said after being swept by Rider on March 22.

Things looked pretty bleak when Quinnipiac lost every game of its opening series against Liberty on February 16-18. The bob-
The Cats allowed 36 runs in 27 innings and put in a third of that offensively. On the other hand, the Flames play in Conference USA against much stronger competition, so it’s not entirely surprising that the Bobcats were in over their heads.

However, the team had a pair of two-win stretches, the first being Presbyterian on February 25 and Merrimack on March 2. The latter was the Bobcats’ first home game on their new grass field. Junior infielder Dominick Proctor’s single lifted Quinnipiac to a 5-4 victory. The Bobcats won the series, beating the Warriors on March 3 and then Delaware five days later.

But aside from some moments of life in the box and on the mound, Quinnipiac has seen much better days on the diamond.

“We expect our guys to rise up, rise to the moment,” Delaney said. “Our conversation after the second game is about rising to the moment. It always seems like when the moment (of opportunity) happens in the eighth or ninth inning it’s the biggest moment in the world, but the reality is those moments also happen in the first or second inning.

“Our job is not to depend on the timing of the backend (of the game), we have to do a better job in those moments before the game.”

The Bobcats have been swept four times in less than two months, the first being the Liberty. Then it was William & Mary from March 15-17, followed by reigning conference champions Rider a week later. And finally, the Bobcats lost three in a row to Siena last week.

Additionally, Quinnipiac’s average clean performance through 24 games has been poor, to say the least. The Bobcats have a
They posted a 7.49 ERA, with their strongest reliever being senior right-hander Evan Jasek, who has a 3.65 ERA in 12.1 innings.

On the other side of the totem pole is junior right-hander Mason Ulsh, a projected rising star for the Bobcats in 2024. Ulsh’s batting average in 30 innings is .359, higher than eight of Quinnipiac’s nine starting hitters. Senior third baseman Sebas-
Tian Mueller is the exception, with a .379 average.

Before opening day, Delaney said the Bobcats wouldn’t be a team with four or five starters in the rotation. Quinnipiac was going to use every aspect of the bullpen to get through games, averaging four to five pitchers in each contest. However, this strategy has not been successful.

The pitching staff was most recently celebrated in Quinnipiac’s 4-0, two-hit shutout against URI on March 26.
They combined to silence the Rams’ offense to just two hits, but it wasn’t enough momentum to continue the Siena series.

Then there are the bats. Offensively, something is just missing. Last season, the Bobcats hit .304, and nearly all of their starters averaged above .250. Now, that statistic represents Quinnipiac’s winning percentage rather than its batting average.

At this point in the year, the drive to survive should be activated. But Quinnipiac’s schedule continues to go from strength to strength, as
ready to battle top MAAC teams like Niagara and Fairfield down the stretch.

“We can’t expect to win games by just acting like it doesn’t exist,” Delaney said.

But like most stagnant teams, there is still a silver lining. For Quinnipiac, it’s three veteran hitters: catcher Keegan O’Connor, center fielder Jared Zimbardo and Mueller. Mueller leads the team offensively, hitting .379 as mentioned with a 1.017 OPS. O’Connor and Zimbardo are hot on his heels and both are currently hitting .337. Despite the recent struggles of the Bobcats as a whole, these names continue to perform individually.

It is obvious that Quinnipiac is not the same team as last season and improvement is imperative, specifically in the slump. Good pitching creates quiet offense, and that’s where the Bobcats need to focus to turn around a disappointing season.

“It’s a question of identity,” Delaney said of scoring with runners on base. “Every player has to know what his identity is and what type of player he is and figure out how to be productive in those places.”

The Bobcats continue their search for their identity Wednesday at 3 pm against Yale, aiming to snap a three-game losing streak and earn a fourth home win.

But for now, it looks like the grass isn’t much greener for Quinnipiac, not even on the grass.

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