SU Baseball Notebook: Morse, Hornets eager for second crack at Randolph-Macon

WINCHESTER – Shenandoah University’s first meeting with Randolph-Macon on the baseball diamond this spring went terribly wrong for the Hornets. The Hornets get another shot at R-MC in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference tournament on Friday afternoon.

Shenandoah travels to Lynchburg’s City Stadium this weekend for a three-day, double-elimination skirmish that will crown the ODAC champion. The Hornets, the fourth seed, drew a matchup with the top-seeded Yellow Jackets in a 4 p.m. contest on Friday to kick off the four-team bracket.

It will be the first meeting between the two teams since Randolph-Macon battered Shenandoah for 26 runs in a doubleheader sweep at Bridgeforth Field on April 21.

“We do hold a grudge against Macon,” Hornets senior right-hander Colin Morse said on Wednesday. “They’re a good team, so we’re looking to just go out there and just beat them. We’re gonna keep that last game in mind with them but we’re not gonna really let that carry over. It’s a new ballgame, new season. Go right back at them and go for the win.”

Morse, Shenandoah’s No. 1 starting pitcher in each of the last two seasons, said he’ll make his second start of the season against Randolph-Macon on Friday afternoon. His first start against the Yellow Jackets didn’t go quite as planned in what ended up being an 18-2 drubbing.

Morse, the 2017 ODAC Pitcher of the Year, lasted only five innings against R-MC in his April 21 start, allowing seven runs (five earned) on six hits. The senior also walked four and hit two batters while striking out seven.

“It didn’t go as well as we would’ve liked but again, it’s a new game,” Morse said of getting a second shot on the mound against the Yellow Jackets on Friday. “I’m not gonna go out there trying to do anything different than I’ve done all year. Just going out there to give my club a chance to win. Just competing, staying in the zone, not giving them the ballgame with walks. Just really trusting my catcher, trusting coach and making the right pitches.”

R-MC’s regular season sweep of Shenandoah included 30 total hits, including six home runs. The Yellow Jackets, led by first baseman Joseph Tuzzolo’s ODAC-best 11 homers, are the runaway conference leaders in home runs (48) this season and are averaging nearly 10 runs a game.

“They’re all aggressive at the plate. You leave a ball over the plate, they’re gonna take advantage of it,” said Morse, who’s 6-3 with a 2.97 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings pitched this season. “Some teams at this level, you can make some mistakes, but this is the type of team that will take advantage of your mistakes, whether it’s an error in the field, whether it’s a ball over the middle of the plate, not executing. That stuff’s important in games like these.”

Adding to Shenandoah’s push for a better performance against Randolph-Macon should be the drive to perform well over the rest of the ODAC tournament with a spot in the NCAA Division III regional round at stake.

“Going into this conference (tournament), I think, is a little bit different because everybody kind of knows what’s at stake,” Hornets catcher Chase Smallwood said. “I think there might be a little bit of pressure put on us but I think it’s also gonna help us play better. We know we’ve gotta win in order to advance. We don’t have a backup plan.”

ODAC LEADER: A hot streak  over the last month has Smallwood sitting atop the list of conference batting average leaders. His .417 average is tied for the top mark in the ODAC with Roanoke’s Sean Guida.

Smallwood, a 2014 Sherando High School graduate, carried a 13-game hitting streak into Monday’s contest against Penn State-Harrisburg before seeing that run snapped with an 0-for-2 showing in the Hornets’ 3-1 win on senior night. He’s had seven multi-hit games in 14 contests since April 6 and 12 RBIs in that span.

For the season Smallwood is slashing .417/.524/.524 and has a home run, four doubles, a triple, 21 RBIs and 22 runs scored.

INJURY UPDATE: Shenandoah head coach Kevin Anderson said reliever Tyler Ritenour would remain out for the rest of the ODAC tournament as he continues to recover from a laceration to his hand. Anderson added that Ritenour could return for the NCAA regional round, should the Hornets earn a bid.

MOVING UP: Shenandoah rose two spots to No. 18 in the latest D3baseball.com/NCBWA Top 25 released on Tuesday. The Hornets are one of three ODAC teams in the poll, including Randolph-Macon (No. 3) and Roanoke (13).