Baseball spring season getting into full swing

The Guilford baseball team congratulates sophomore Zach Dinkins after his second pitching start of the season during the Tufts University game. Dinkins pitched five innings and allowed two runs in the Quakers 11-6 victory.// Photo By: Abigail Bekele/The Guilfordian

The Guilford College baseball team started slow, but has been improving over the season. The team has a 10-8-1 record including a five-game winning streak from March 9 to 15.

“We started off on a slow start, but as of right now, we’re really hitting the ball, working as a team and just taking it game by game,” said senior Trevor Denton.

Denton is the team’s leading hitter, with a .370 batting average, two home runs and 23 RBIs. Denton is second in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference in RBIs.

Senior shortstop Josh Shepherd has continued to hit well this season. He was a .329 batting average and has seven doubles. Shepherd had only hit one homerun in his collegiate career before this season and he has hit three this season.

“I’m doing all right,” said Shepherd. “The team though offense has been really clicking lately, grinding out at-bats, not striking out.”

Junior centerfielder Brett Shapcott has hit .313 on the season and he’s been impacting the games once getting on base. He has nine steals on the season and has not been thrown out a single time. As a team, they have only been thrown out stealing in 4-of-21 attempts.

While the team returned a lot of the offense, it is a different story for the pitching.

The team lost a lot of its top arms from last year and the pitching has struggled this season. This season they have used 14 pitchers so far in the season and have a 5.67 ERA as a team. The top pitcher is Denton, who has a 2.78 ERA in five starts.

The only other pitcher with an ERA under 4 on the team is junior Rhett Miller, who transferred from Patrick Henry Community College before this year. He has a 2.08 ERA in 13 innings of relief and has one save.

While the pitching has struggled, the offense has been carrying them to victory. The team averages six runs scored in the first 19 games of the season.

“Offensively we’ve really battled,” said head coach Nick Black. “We’ve been able to come back and win some games offensively.”

This past week was a tough battle for the Quakers as the faced some top teams in the country.

“I think you just get an idea where you’re at,” said Black. “You got to beat the best if you want to be where you’re supposed to be, so it gives us a good point of reference.”

This past weekend, the Quakers dropped both games against Randolph-Macon College, ranked ninth in the March 18 Top 25. On March 17, the Quakers dropped a close 4-1 game. Denton pitched into the seventh inning allowing four runs but the offense could not get started.

The next day, the Quakers offense and pitching struggled in a 17-3 loss. The bright spot in the loss was senior Sam Gerald getting three hits in four at-bats.

Coming off two straight losses, the Quakers returned home to face Tufts University on Monday March 19. Tufts is another team that is near the top of Division III and Guilford pulled out an encouraging victory. Sophomore Zach Dinkins pitched five innings allowing two runs and picked up his first collegiate victory.

Tufts got within one in the top of the seventh, 5-4, but the Quakers responded with three runs in the bottom of the seventh and eighth to seal the victory. The offense carried them to the victory with scoring 11 runs on 18 hits. Shepherd went four-for-five and senior Michael Pinkston had three hits. Denton, Shapcott, junior Mitchell Stumpo and sophomore Ryan Hill all had two hits.

With it being the third game in three days, the team turned to some young pitchers to get the victory. First-year Sean Kinloch and sophomore Brody Holloman relieved Dinkins and closed out the game.

“It’s been a learning curve, especially early in the year but we’ve started to throw more strikes,” said Black. “We’ve started to pound the strike zone like we need to and hopefully we’ll just continue to build later on in the year.”

The team plays Virginia Wesleyan University tomorrow afternoon in a doubleheader as they aim for the ODAC playoffs.