Morse shuts down Red Devils as Hornets keep rolling

Dickinson's Ryan Dolan beats a throw to home plate as Shenandoah University's catcher Dan Cameron waits for the ball during sixth inning action Monday evening at Bridgeforth Field. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University’s pitching staff has picked up right where it left off last season.

Sophomore right-hander Colin Morse tossed the latest gem for the Hornets in Monday’s non-conference baseball game against visiting Dickinson College at Bridgeforth Field, while a four-run third inning and some timely defense pushed SU to a 6-1 win, its sixth straight victory.

Monday marked the seventh time in 11 games this season that the ninth-ranked Hornets (10-1) have limited an opposing team to two runs or fewer.

“We just kind of go out there knowing that we’ve gotta just get ahead of every batter that we have,” said Morse, who was part of a Hornets pitching staff that ranked eighth in Division III in team ERA in 2015. “These guys were gonna come out swinging, especially with all the fastballs, so it was mainly just getting the first one in there and seeing what they did. They were hitting the ball around.”

Morse (2-0) needed just four pitches to get through the top of the first inning and would go on to allow just one earned run – his only run allowed in 18.1 innings this season – while scattering seven hits and a hit batter and striking out eight over seven innings.

Shenandoah University's Tristan Baker, left, works to complete a double play ball as Dickinson's Stephen Sakowicz is forced out at second base during sixth inning action Monday afternoon at Bridgeforth Field. Rich Cooley/Daily

Morse said he had to rely on his fastball and breaking ball as his changeup was “iffy” in the early innings, but Hornets head coach Kevin Anderson said the sophomore showed maturity by not abandoning his third pitch.

“What he did was in between innings he worked on it (the changeup) and lo and behold he came back and got a strikeout, a double play, some swing and misses with it, where a lot of young pitchers would give up on the pitch and say we don’t have it,” Anderson said. “It’s a credit to Colin to find that pitch knowing that if you’re gonna be a starter you’re gonna need three.”

The Hornets backed their starting pitcher with early run support, as an RBI single to left-center by catcher Dan Cameron (1-for-2, two runs scored) in the bottom of the first inning gave SU a 1-0 lead.

Freshman second baseman Tristan Baker started the Hornets’ four-run third inning with a one-out double down the left-field line. A hit batter and a walk loaded the bases for junior left fielder Abel Arocho, who cleared the bases with a two-RBI single that was compounded by a Dickinson fielding error, allowing Cameron to score from first base.

Arocho (2-for-3) said he was looking for a pitch away from Red Devils starter Garrett Kurtz and jumped on a 1-0 mistake over the middle of the plate, lining the pitch to center field. Arocho’s hit ended a short outing for Kurtz, who lasted just 2.1 innings and allowed five runs (three earned) on three hits, two walks and two strikeouts.

Shenandoah University's Abel Arocho slides under the tag of Dickinson catcher Ben Carter to score a run during third inning action Monday afternoon at Bridgeforth Field in Winchester. Rich Cooley/Daily

“Coach always says we’ve gotta score two the first inning, try to score two in the first three innings so we can let the pitching staff have a little more (breathing room) and just come in and stay aggressive at the plate,” said Arocho, who had two of SU’s seven hits. “That’s our motto, ‘Stay aggressive, stay aggressive.'”

Arocho remained aggressive on the bases, as he scored from second on a swinging bunt down the first-base line by sophomore Neil Dutton, a Randolph-Macon Academy graduate. That gave SU a 5-0 lead.

“I was timing the guy (Dickinson reliever Matt Cowell) from the start and he looked like he was slow to the plate, so I gave Coach a sign, like, ‘Hey coach I’m ready to go,'” Arocho said. “He gave it to me and that’s when I stole and Neil got the little ground ball and that was perfect. I was gonna go. I was not gonna stop. I wasn’t looking back.”

Jake Loew (2-for-4) lined an 0-2 pitch softly to center for an RBI single that gave Shenandoah a 6-0 lead in the fifth.

“I thought we had a good two-strike hitting approach today, had some big hits with two strikes, made some things happen,” Anderson said.

Shenandoah University's Colin Morse fires a pitch during a game against Dickinson last season. Morse, a junior, will lead the Hornets' pitching staff in 2017. Rich Cooley/Daily

Shenandoah also made a handful of timely defensive plays to halt potential Dickinson rallies, including a pair of 5-4-3 double plays, the second of which ended with the Red Devils’ only run in the top of the sixth.

Morse also picked off a runner at first after an SU error to lead off the fifth, and the Hornets threw out two Red Devils who aggressively tried to take an extra base. Cameron threw out Ryan Dolan at second base for the second out in the third after a throw home initially skipped past the cutoff man on Dolan’s single, and center fielder Joe Coleman threw out Phil Werner for the first out in the fourth as Werner tried to stretch a single into a double. The Red Devils left a runner stranded at third in both innings.

“I don’t mind the mistakes being aggressive, we’ve just gotta make sure we’re not making dumb mistakes,” Dickinson coach Craig Hanson said.

SU senior right-handers Ryan Mossman and Phil Morse combined to pitch two hitless frames of relief while each struck out a pair of batters.

Shenandoah starts Old Dominion Athletic Conference play this weekend with a Saturday doubleheader at home against Roanoke College.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com