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          Offense breaks out of slump; Spartans go 3-2

          George Jones

          Issue date: 4/9/10 Section: Sports
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          Take a look at the following sequence of numbers: 1, 1, 2, 3, 0, 7, 8, 14, 4.

          No, mathematicians, it's not a messed-up Fibonacci sequence - it's the number of runs that the Spartans offense scored in the last nine games through Monday. After being shut out by Wooster, 17-0, last Friday, the offense suddenly broke out of their slump to go 3-1 over the rest of the weekend.

          "We were more aggressive offensively compared to the previous five games," said third baseman Chad Mullins. "We swung at more fastballs which allowed us to make solid contact more often, and break out of our offensive funk."

          "We're an aggressive team, and it seemed like for a few days, we were really pressing to get out of a slump, and that's the worst thing you can do," said coach Matt Englander.

          They split a doubleheader at Wooster on Saturday, winning 7-5 in the first game and losing 13-8 in the second game. They executed a last-inning comeback in the first game, scoring four runs in the seventh, three on a Mullins double. Junior pitcher Zach Fry pitched a complete game to improve his record to 5-1, his five wins ranking him in a tie for 21st in all of Division III.

          "Zach had a solid performance on Saturday," said Englander. "In game two, we didn't really throw enough strikes, didn't get ahead of hitters. Wooster's a very good hitting team, so they really magnify any mistakes you make."

          "Facing Wooster on back-to-back days helped get our energy up right away on Saturday," said sophomore pitcher Bradley Potter. "Usually if you lose to a team, you have to wait at least a few weeks to play them again, sometimes a year. Getting to face Wooster again the very next day, that frustration and energy from Friday carried right through to the weekend."

          On Monday, the Spartans swept a doubleheader from Bethany College by scores of 14-8 and 4-3. Game one featured separate innings of five and six runs to carry the team to victory, as a five-run seventh was not enough for the Bison to come back. They scored just enough to win in the second game, as Potter pitched an excellent game in his first collegiate start.

          "Brad pitched a real good game on Monday," said Englander. "He threw tons of strikes with all three pitches that he throws."

          "Bethany was a trap game. After facing Wooster, a much more talented opponent, it would have been easy for us to let our guard down, take it easy, and lose," said first baseman Brett Ossola. "But we did a good job of playing each at-bat and never taking them for granted. We played well and came out with two Ws."

          "We made it a point to stop focusing on previous games and previous at-bats. I told the guys, the longer we dwell on the recent struggles, the longer they would last," said center fielder Clay Hurley. "We did a great job of living and playing in the moment, and we were able to break through. I think you'll see a high-octane offense for the rest of the season."

          Freshman shortstop Matt Keen broke out of his slump, hitting .571 over the last four games, with three home runs.

          "He went through a little funk there for a few days, where he was just pressing. It was his first slump, if you will, and he didn't know how to handle it," said Englander. "He got back to basics, being aggressive, hitting fastballs, and luckily got some of them."

          The Spartans are now at 13-13, which ties the most number of wins in Englander's tenure (13 in 2008). They are just six wins from CWRU's modern-era record of 19 in 1994.
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