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The Guilfordian

Baseball

The 2017 season had a tough ending to a solid year for the Quakers statistically. In what really panned out to be a roller coaster of events for Quaker baseball, the team finished the year at 22-17, 9-11 in Old Dominion Athletic Conference play. Their record put them seventh in the conference, one spot outside of eligibility to compete in the conference tournament.

Ironically, sixth—and lowest—seed Roanoke College took home the ODAC crown after sweeping second-seeded Washington and Lee University in the final two games of the tournament. The Maroons finished the regular season with the same record as the Quakers at 9-11, but because they earned more points (thanks to convincing win over a ranked Randolph-Macon College team), it put them above Guilford in the standings.

The Quakers were solid in out of conference play to open the season. But first, they had to get first game jitters out of the way, squeaking past Piedmont College 6-5, in an ugly game to start the doubleheader. The Quakers tallied five errors, including one that gave the Lions their first player on base after a bad throw from shortstop Josh Shepherd. The game stayed even until two-run innings from the Quakers in both the bottom of the fifth and sixth gave them a 5-3 advantage. The game remained tight, but strong pitching gave Trevor Denton the save as he gave up zero hits in the final two innings of the game to secure the victory. It was a slow start with a strong finish, which became the narrative in many games—and several losses—for the team this season.

Their issue with errors, however, carried into the rest of the season (Guilford had the second most total errors in the ODAC with 78). Their fielding issues were exposed in the second half of the doubleheader with Piedmont, losing 10-1. Piedmont, under a new head coach, was an average program finishing the year at 24-20, and they were not that strong a hitting team. It was a case of the Quakers’ beating themselves, with ten men left on base and slow pitching early.

Guilford won seven of its next 11 games, a solid feat going into conference play. But slow starts in games caught up to them once again, opening the ODAC with a loss at a less than formidable Lynchburg College team. The Quakers loss 4-1 with five of the seven Guilford hits coming after the sixth inning. By then, it was too late, giving up the early lead. As a team, the Quakers were top five in the ODAC in several key hitting categories such as hits, doubles, batting average, strikeouts and ground out/fly out ratio. Yet, they were only seventh in runs.

Many of the Quakers’ losses were not due to being overpowered by the other teams’ talent. The Lynchburg loss was one of 10 Guilford losses this season decided by three runs or less. They suffered a tough stretch, losing nine out of their first 11 ODAC contests, including a Mid-March stretch where Guilford lost six straight games. Yet the Quakers record was deceiving. It did not represent the level of talent the team had to offer.

The Quakers were able to hold the then number one team in the nation, Shenandoah University, to their lowest scoring games this year in a doubleheader April 1. Guilford dropped both games, 1-0 then 2-1, but it showed the rest of the conference the Guilford was a threat despite their ODAC standing at the time. An ODAC Tournament appearance looked bleak for the team, but their leaders never lost hope, especially the seniors.

They rode the momentum of strong defensive play throughout the rest of the season. They bounced back immediately from Shenandoah with a big road win at Emory and Henry College, 13-6. Senior Logan Jones pitched seventh innings and only sacrificed one earned run. The team finished the year on an 8-3 run after the Shenandoah loss.

Yes, that’s right.

After starting off 2-9 in the ODAC, sitting in last place, it took the Quakers a month to surge into the seventh-place spot in this very competitive conference. The team was not short of talent, but simply had a few key games slip away.

The pitching was strong, but lacked true depth. Luckily, Jones, who has played over five positions for the Quakers over the course of his career, stepped in to a strong relief pitching role for Guilford. He led the team in wins with six (ranking fifth in the ODAC), was third in innings pitched with 55.2, and ranked eighth in the conference with a 3.07 earned run average. Jones was awarded Guilford’s Most Improved Athlete award at the Annual Athletic Awards program.

Along with Jones was the Quakers’ leading pitcher senior John Todd, who enjoyed his best individual season at Guilford. As of games through May 9, Todd leads not only the conference, but the entire NCAA Division III with 15 starts, garnering six wins. He leads the team in innings pitched (80.2, fifth in ODAC) and strikeouts (57, third in ODAC).

Overall, there are many positives to take from this season. The team looks to return 11 upperclassmen, including junior Trever Denton, who led the conference and set the school-standard with 20 doubles. He batted in a whopping 50 runs, good for second in the ODAC. Denton received first-team All-ODAC recognition. Guilford also looks to return sophomore Mitchell Stumpo, had the third-highest overall batting average (.364) for the Quakers, with 55 hits, 12 doubles, and 26 RBI.

If the team can build upon the success of the latter part of the season and improve upon the struggles during the March slump, the rest of the ODAC should be worried.