Going into my third season as the NSU play-by-play broadcaster for baseball, I can say I have seen plenty of games at the Shark Tank. Following a poor performance in a series against Delta State University, I feel obligated to defend this team, who is really better than its record.
Can one bad series really diminish the hard earned reputation of the NSU baseball team? Many Division II baseball columnists and pollsters have given up faith in the team. The Sharks have gone from a preseason top 25 team, to unranked, disrespected and an after thought by many baseball fans.
During their first ten games, the Sharks went 6-4 — the worst start to a season since Head Coach Greg Brown took over the job three years ago. But it doesn’t matter how they start, it’s all about how they finish.
What’s encouraging is that the toughest part of the schedule is now behind the team. The Sharks will play 10 of their next 11 games at home, against beatable opponents. Of those 11 games, Southern New Hampshire University is the only ranked team the Sharks will face.
Last April, West Chester University proved how one poor series doesn’t have to ruin a team’s season. These eventual national champion’s lost a four-game series to a team that finished the season just above .500. Now I’m not going to say that NSU is going to go on and win the national championship, but I will say that they are facing their adversity much earlier in the season than West Chester, which can only play in the Sharks favor.
The Sharks are far off from becoming the next West Chester, and they have some work to do if they hope to become an elite team. Before the team starts conference play in March, they will have to address their pitching, and hitting. The lack of consistency has, ultimately, lead to the team’s subpar performance thus far.
If the team has any hopes of overcoming the defending champions, Tampa, for the Sunshine State Conference regular season championship, their pitching must become more consistent. The Sharks will look for some consistency from their ace, starting pitcher, Zach Westcott. Like the rest of the pitching staff Westcott has had his up and down moments this season. And while the pitchers have struggled this season, the Sharks pitchers combined to go six and one third innings before conceding the first hit of the game. The talent is there, it just needs to be there more often.
Hitting has been another area of concern for the team. The Sharks are missing that one big power bat in the middle of their lineup. However, as long as the team averages close to seven runs per game they should manage to be just fine, big bat or not. From what I’ve seen it looks like the offense is just working off the rust, and with each at bat gets closer to reaching midseason form.
The Sharks have a talented and experienced team. The players have the desire and the skill set to become a prominent team in the conference once again. I look forward to watching them from the press box, as I have for the past two seasons.