The softball season didn’t start quite the way East Tennessee State coach Brad Irwin had hoped.
The Bucs lost all four games at a tournament at Auburn last weekend, and were outscored 31-8 in the process. Only a 5-4 loss to Kent State in the second game was close.
“We’re definitely disappointed to go 0-4, no doubt about that,” Irwin said Tuesday. “If we had talked last Saturday night, I wouldn’t have had anything positive to say. But after reviewing the weekend as a whole, I think most of the problems are things we can fix.
“We left 28 runners on base in four ballgames; now we just need to get them in. We made a lot of errors, and that hurt pitchers. And they walked too many people.”
Irwin said freshman Samantha Harrell pitched fairly well, despite taking two of the losses. She had an earned-run average of 2.45 in 12.2 innings.
Another freshman, shortstop Sam Carpenter, hit two home runs and drove in all four runs in the Kent State game. She just missed another homer when she doubled off the wall against Army.
And senior catcher Jackie Baird collected four hits in nine at-bats.
“There were some bright spots,” said Irwin, “but we have a lot of young kids, and you could clearly see that some of them had that deer-in-the-headlights look. I think we’ll see a lot less of that this weekend.”
The Bucs are scheduled to play five games in a tournament hosted by College of Charleston. They’ll start with Towson and Syracuse on Friday.
The baseball team gets started in the friendly confines of Thomas Stadium on Friday. Penn State will be in town to play three games.
The start time for the opener has been moved back a half-hour to 2:35 p.m. A dedication ceremony for the stadium, which was completed in the offseason, will be conducted that morning at 10:30.
Single games with the Nittany Lions are also set for 1:05 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The men’s tennis team rarely does a lot of damage in January and February, playing the kind of schedule Yaser Zaatini puts together year in and year out.
This year the Bucs are a respectable 3-2, with victories over Oklahoma State, Louisiana-Lafayette and Appalachian State. They were shut out at Wake Forest and Ohio State.
Naturally, Zaatini, ETSU’s director of tennis, thinks things could be going better.
“In the beginning, I think as a whole we didn’t come prepared,” he said Tuesday while en route with the women’s team to a tournament at Liberty. “There’s the assumption by some of these kids that they can catch it on the fly, get it together in the first three days of practice. It never happens like that; they’re just young and naïve.
“Even the kids that have been here, sometimes they think they’re too talented and too pretty for their own good. It gives me headaches.”
All that being said, the Bucs have beaten two pretty good teams in Oklahoma State and ULL. And they’ve lost to two very good teams.
“Ohio State is legit top five,” said Zaatini.
The Bucs play their first “local” matches this weekend at the Bristol Racquet Club. Georgia State visits on Friday and Nebraska on Saturday.
ETSU lost to both teams on the road last season in fairly tight matches.
Zaatini said his singles lineup, top to bottom, will include senior Jesus Bandres, junior Jorge Varon, senior Juan Ramirez, junior Roger Ordeig and sophomore Ricardo Pabon.
The ETSU women, meanwhile, were working on a nine-day layoff Tuesday since their 4-1 win over Middle Tennessee State to open the spring season. It’s a fairly inexperienced team that Zaatini seems to like.
“It’s a deep little group,” he said. “Not fancy, just straight-up players who compete well. We have some weak links physically, not so much tennis-wise. We have three freshmen and I think we’re on the road to being an extremely good team.”
The spring golf season begins Sunday in the Texas hill country for the ETSU women. They are entered in the Jim West Challenge in Blanco, hosted by Texas State.
Coach Stefanie Shelton hopes her team carries some momentum from the fall schedule. The Lady Bucs finished first, sixth and second in their last three tournaments.
Individually, they had runner-up finishes by junior Sian Evans at Greensboro, N.C., and by freshman Vivienne Chin at Kiawah Island, S.C., in the final event.
The men’s golf team returns to action Sunday in the Puerto Rico Classic.
The Bucs are coming off a sixth-place finish in their first tournament of the spring, the Sea Best Invitational at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Fla.
Adrian Meronk tied for third individually at three over par, while fellow freshman Chris Hickman finished in a four-way tie for ninth at seven over.