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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Identity issues plague Bobcats in early-season slump

Tyler Rinko
Senior centerfielder Jared Zimbardo walks off the field in a game against Merrimack on March 2.

There’s something to be said about a team that sets a program record of 30 wins in a season. But it also raises concern when that same team is off to a 6-18 start just one year later.

So what’s happening with Quinnipiac baseball?

MAAC coaches ranked the Bobcats No. 2 in the preseason poll, but they certainly haven’t lived up to those expectations, sitting at the bottom of the conference at 0-6.

“We just gotta play better baseball,” head coach John Delaney said after being swept by Rider on March 22.

Things looked pretty bleak when Quinnipiac lost every game in its opening series against Liberty from Feb. 16-18. The Bobcats let up 36 runs in 27 innings and put up a third of that offensively. Then again, the Flames play in Conference USA against much stronger competition, so it’s not entirely shocking that the Bobcats were in over their heads.

However, the squad had a pair of two-game winning stints, the first being Presbyterian on Feb. 25 and Merrimack on March 2. The latter was the Bobcats’ home opener on their new turf field. Junior infielder Dominick Proctor’s walkoff single quarterbacked Quinnipiac to a 5-4 win. The Bobcats went on to win the series, besting the Warriors on March 3 and then Delaware five days later.

But besides a few spurts of life in the box and on the mound, Quinnipiac has seen much better days on the diamond.

“Our guys, we expect them to rise up, rise up to the moment,” Delaney said. “Our conversation after game two is about rising up to the moment. It always feels like when the moment (of opportunity) happens in the eighth or the ninth it’s the biggest moment in the world, but the reality is those moments happen in the first or the second inning also.

“Our job is to not rely on the moment of the backend (of the game), we have to do a better job in those moments in front of the game.”

The Bobcats have been swept four times in less than two months, the first being Liberty. Then it was William & Mary from March 15-17, followed by reigning conference champions Rider a week later. And finally, the Bobcats dropped three in a row to Siena this past week.

Additionally, Quinnipiac’s earned run average through 24 games has been subpar, to say the least. The Bobcats have a combined 7.49 ERA, their strongest reliever being senior righty Evan Jasek, who sports a 3.65 ERA through 12.1 innings.

On the other side of the totem pole is junior righty Mason Ulsh, a predicted rising star for the Bobcats in 2024. Ulsh’s batting average against in 30 innings is .359, higher than eight of Quinnipiac’s starting nine batters. Senior third baseman Sebastian Mueller is the exception, with a .379 average.

Before opening day, Delaney said the Bobcats wouldn’t be a team with four or five starters in the rotation. Quinnipiac was going to utilize every aspect of the bullpen to get through games, averaging four to five pitchers in each contest. However, this strategy hasn’t been successful.

The pitching staff was most recently celebrated in Quinnipiac’s 4-0, two-hit shutout against URI on March 26. Eight Bobcats combined to silence the Rams’ offense to just two hits, but it wasn’t enough momentum to carry into the Siena series.

Then there’s the bats. Offensively, there’s just something missing. Last season, the Bobcats hit .304, with almost every starter averaging above .250. Now, that statistic represents Quinnipiac’s winning percentage rather than its batting average.

At this point in the year, the drive to survive should kick in. But Quinnipiac’s schedule just keeps getting stronger, as it’s set to battle top MAAC teams like Niagara and Fairfield down the stretch.

“We can’t expect to win games just by showing up like it’s just not a thing,” Delaney said.

But like most teams in a rut, there is still a silver lining. For Quinnipiac, it’s three senior bats — catcher Keegan O’Connor, center fielder Jared Zimbardo and Mueller. Mueller leads the team offensively, batting .379 as mentioned with an OPS of 1.017. O’Connor and Zimbardo are on his heels, both currently batting .337. Despite recent struggles for the Bobcats as a whole, these names continue to perform individually.

It’s obvious that Quinnipiac isn’t the same team from last season and it’s imperative to improve, specifically on the bump. Good pitching fires up a quiet offense, and that’s where the Bobcats need to hone in on to turn around a disappointing season.

“It’s an identity thing,” Delaney said about scoring with runners on base. “Each player’s gotta know what their identity is and what type of player they are and realize how to be productive in those spots.”

The Bobcats continue the search for their identity Wednesday at 3 p.m. against Yale, aiming to snap a three-game skid and snag a fourth home win.

But for now, it appears the grass isn’t much greener for Quinnipiac, even on turf.

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Amanda Dronzek, Associate Sports Editor

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