Saints aim to right ship, reach .500
Loss to rival Riddle tough to swallow, but team can still finish strong
By Devon Jeffreys
With a 17-24 record and 11 games to play, Saints baseball won’t have an easy road back to the .500 mark, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get there.
“We want to win every game, of course. You want to have a perfect record,” junior outfielder Glenn Kiture said. “As the season goes on you have to reestablish goals and that is a goal of ours right now.”
A three-game weekend sweep at the hands of NCAA Div. II No. 30 Florida Gulf Coast made things more difficult, and with competition like Rollins College and Florida Sun Conference leading St. Thomas on the slate to finish the year, the Saints have their work cut out for them.
The Saints are 6-7 in their last 13 games, with four of those seven losses coming in one-run games. The Saints are 4-9 in one-run games this year, a stat that shows how close they have been, especially in tough recent losses to Southeastern and Embry-Riddle.
“We had the lead in both games against Southeastern and let them slip by and then, the other night against Embry-Riddle, we let that game get away from us late,” Coach Dave Barnett said. “We’ve played better. In the last three weeks we’ve played better baseball, more consistent. It’s just that we haven’t closed out a couple of those games.”
Against Riddle, the Saints led entering the ninth, but two costly errors let the game slip by and the Saints fell to Riddle for the 17th straight time. The Saints haven’t beaten the Eagles on the diamond since February of 2003.
“It’s very difficult to swallow for me, for everybody it is,” Kiture said. “I’m 0-9 vs. them since I’ve been here, so I really wanted that one.”
The Saints offense has continued its impressive consistency at the plate, batting .300 as a team. Leading the charge has been senior catcher Shane Darnofall. Darnofall is hitting .385 for the season, an impressive number for any player, especially one who squats behind the plate for the entire game.
“It’s my senior year,” Darnofall said. “Every day I come out here I realize it’s one less day I have. Every day I come out here it’s just fun. I’m going to miss it when I’m done.”
As the catcher, Darnofall has seen the Saints pitching staff turn around a season that started out allowing a lot of runs.
“They’re hitting spots a lot better,” he said. “They’re starting to settle in a little bit out there and that’s helped them out a lot.”
Leading the charge have been juniors John Goryl and Kyle Cancelleri. Each has made five starts and posted ERA’s under five.
“They’ve really filled in in those starter roles,” Barnett said. “Our pitching, I wish we had figured it out sooner.”