The beginning of the Ohio Athletic Conference portion of the 2016 schedule has brought new life to a resilient John Carroll University baseball program. After suffering an early six-game losing streak, the team has fought back and won six of its 10 conference matchups, four of which came this past week.
This past Tuesday, the Blue and Gold swept the Wilmington Fightin’ Quakers by scores of 14-5 and 9-2. Less than 24 hours later, the team split a doubleheader with Mount Union by winning the first game 6-1 and falling short in the second game by a score of 10-9. To conclude the weekend, JCU split another doubleheader with Otterbein by winning 11-4 and losing 14-10. All in all, it was a huge week for a resurging program.
One of the essential pieces of the Blue Streak bullpen is Steve Virost, a sophomore that hails from Notre Dame Cathedral Latin High School. In his two bullpen appearances this week, Virost only surrendered one hit and did not allow a run in his four innings of work.
Virost commented on the team’s recent success, saying, “The reason for success this week has been an all-around team effort. Everyone is helping each other out. If someone makes a mistake, our teammates are quick to pick them up and help them out. If the hitting is lacking, our pitchers pick them up. If the pitchers slack, the fielders will get hits and make plays for us. It has made for a fun couple of games and is a testament to how our team trusts one another,” said Virost.
After only pitching in one inning in his first collegiate season, Virost has shown steady improvement throughout his sophomore year. He is currently fourth on the team in earned run average (3.63), number one in appearances (12) and has only walked three batters in 22.1 innings pitched.
Under head coach Marc Thibeault, JCU baseball now finds themselves in a three-way tie for second place on the highly-competitive OAC conference ladder. The team is bolstered by a strong pitching core led by seniors Aaron Lapaglia (4-2, 2.25 ERA) and Brandon Maddern (4-4, 3.86 ERA). Sophomore Mike Raschilla and senior David Crowley have combined for four home runs on the campaign while both hitting well above .350. Senior Rob Cifelli is the team’s catalyst at the top of the lineup with a .333 average and 12 stolen bases, the second highest total in the conference.
It’s worth noting that the 41- man roster is not only headed by seven seniors who all play crucial roles, but it also is jam-packed with loads of freshman talent waiting to blossom.
The first-year class consists of 22 players led by Patrick Keohane and Joseph Franke. Keohane has seen plenty of exposure to the middle of the JCU batting order by tallying 18 hits in only 55 at bats. Franke has found himself a role on the pitching staff in both starter and relief roles thanks to a 1-0 record with 13 strikeouts in only 19 innings pitched. Look for these names to continue to appear in the box score as the season progresses. Up next for the Blue and Gold is a twin bill against Heidelberg University this Tuesday. The first game is slated for a 1 p.m. start time with the second game to follow shortly thereafter.