There may not be a hotter offense in all of NCAA Division III baseball right now than the lineup that Shenandoah University head coach Kevin Anderson has been trotting out on the field over the last week.
Prior to Friday's home game against Penn State-Altoona, the Hornets were batting .383 as a team, an average that is currently one of the best marks in the nation (through all games up to March 16, SU's mark of .372 was good for 12th nationally). Shenandoah is also in the top 20 nationally in on-base percentage (.453) and slugging percentage (.545) and -- unsurprisingly -- ranks at the top of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference in most offensive categories.
Shenandoah is currently ranked 18th in the latest D3baseball.com top 25 poll and had won six straight games heading into Friday. During that win streak, the Hornets -- who are averaging 10.5 runs per game this season -- scored 12 or more runs five straight times, including 20 and 21 runs in two games against Eastern Mennonite University.
Also during that stretch, the Hornets recorded at least 20 hits four times and had a season-high 22 base hits against EMU in Thursday's 21-6 win. Shenandoah also hit seven extra-base hits in that game.
The success at the plate has spread up and down the lineup. Through Thursday's game, Shenandoah had five everyday players -- Michael Paul (.475), J.J. McDaniel (.442), Billy Arens (.412), Nolan Overby (.412) and Dan Powers (.407) -- all batting over .400. Corbin Lucas was just short at .394.
"You've got to be batting around .400 to even get into the lineup," said Paul following Thursday's win against EMU.
The baseball adage that says hitting is contagious certainly holds true for the Hornets at this point in the season, and you can point to a variety of reasons as to why opponents have found it nearly impossible to get Shenandoah's hitters out.
Paul credits the work of the coaching staff, which he said really drove home the importance of proper hitting technique following a 5-2 win over Wesley College (Del.) on March 11.
"The coaches, for one, every single day they're giving us adjustments here or there. What really helped us, at one point we were struggling a little bit. I think we had two days off where ... coach [Bruce] Cameron and especially coach Anderson just got on us about the technique. For two straight days we just worked on that," Paul said.
Anderson in turn gave the credit right back to his players, who he said have made the most out of Shenandoah's nontraditional practice routine that has come as a result of all of the bad weather this winter.
The Hornets have had very little practice time on an actual baseball field so far, and most of Shenandoah's game preparation has taken place on the turf football field at Shentel Stadium, in the armory building on campus or in the parking lot outside Bridgeforth Field.
That leaves Anderson and his staff with a very limited ability to simulate certain game situations in all three facets of baseball -- hitting, pitching and fielding -- although the Hornets have had plenty of tee work and time in the batting cage to fine-tune their technique in the batter's box.
"It's been very difficult. We only get the turf for an hour and ten minutes and that's from 1 to 2:20 [p.m.], so a lot of guys can't make it. But it's a credit to our guys for maximizing their efforts when we do get to go on the turf field," Anderson said. "We play in the parking lots, we try to simulate stuff, but again, all the credit goes to the guys."
Shenandoah returns to ODAC play this afternoon with a home doubleheader against Randolph-Macon College, which boasts a staff ERA of 3.54 this season.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD