Orange County

Wildcats leaning on defense until hitting improves

Following a disappointing 1-0 loss in eight innings to Hillside on Tuesday, East Chapel Hill was looking to bounce back against Orange. Unfortunately, mother nature had other ideas. The game was suspended at East Chapel Hill on Wednesday, but through four and two-thirds innings, the Wildcats continued to lean on their pitching and defense.

“We live by fundamentals” said Wildcats head coach Matt Russell. “Pitching and playing the field is something we take pride in. Our hitting hasn’t been doing what it’s supposed to do. So our pitching has been leading the way.”

Since giving up nine runs to Northwood, East Chapel Hill has allowed four runs in the last 19-innings. They’ve needed standout performances from their pitching and defense given that they’ve scored only four runs themselves in the same period.

“In practice, we always go over mass flyballs and mass ground balls. That’s our game changer,” said pitcher Will Schmidt.

While he is confident in his fellow pitchers and the defense behind him, Schmidt admitted that there is a little extra pressure on the pitching and defense with the way they are struggling at the plate right now. “We don’t hit the ball relatively well, so our defense is definitely key. It makes you think about making every play, but we just have to settle down.”

On Wednesday against Orange, Schmidt gave up just one run prior to the game being suspended in the fifth inning because of rain. He struggled with location in the first inning, but then settled in by moving to a fast-pitch sequence and throwing his four-seam fastball almost exclusively.

While the pitching and defense has carried the team in the last few games, Russell knows that he needs hit hitting to step up if they hope to make any noise moving forward. “We gotta get these bats rolling,” said Russell, who hopes that his club can put everything together and move in the right direction.

The loss to Hillside may have come as a shock to many given the fact that the Hornets had eight wins over the last three seasons. However, Hillside has posted a respectable 7-5 record this season. Russell wasn’t focused on Tuesday’s loss, chalking it up to the beauty of baseball.

“The good thing about baseball is, you get to come out and play the next day,” said Russell. “You wash it off the shower that night and come out the next day. You can’t get too high in this game and you can’t get too low.”