by Kevin Buczek
WILSON, N.C.-The Barton College baseball team will gear up for Conference Carolinas competition that will be contested over the next seven weekends by hosting a three-game series against Bloomsburg University. The Bulldogs and Huskies will first play a doubleheader on Saturday before concluding play with a single game on Sunday. First pitch is slated for noon both days at Nixon Field.
Barton sports information will be providing Live Stats for all three contests.
Barton College Baseball
The Bulldogs are 4-8 overall and have lost three straight contests but have played an extremely tough schedule in February. Their last 10 games all have all taken place against stiff competition that either played in the NCAA Tournament last season or is currently nationally ranked.
Barton has struggled offensively with just an average of 2.1 runs per game and a team batting average of .201. The Bulldogs currently have the same number of errors on the season as runs scored in 25.
However, BC's pitching staff has finished the first month of the season with 3.45 ERA that is second in Conference Carolinas to Erskine.
The Bulldogs have five pitchers that have amassed 10-plus innings of work so far in junior Duncan Everett (0-1, 1.83 ERA), junior Kyle Rufer (1-1, 5.12), sophomore Ricky Jernigan (0-1, 1.59), junior Mike Brienza (1-3, 2.92) and junior Zach Breen (2-1, 3.09).
Junior catcher/closer Snooter Merryman (0.00 ERA) is a perfect 2-for-2 on save opportunities.
Senior shortstop Dillon Rudio provided Barton with its first home run of the season in a loss to Catawba on Wednesday. Rudio leads the team with 12 hits, five doubles, seven runs and eight walks. Rudio is tied with freshman third baseman Andrew Webster for the team lead in RBI with five runs driven in apiece.
Rudio (.293), Webster (.250), freshman center fielder Tyler Garrett (.278) and junior right fielder Avery Harper (.139) are the only four Bulldogs to have played in all 12 games. Webster and Garrett enter the weekend both sporting modest four-game hit streaks.
Senior two-time All-Conference honoree Collins Cuthrell has missed BC's last six games due to injury. However, junior Mitchell Wheeler has returned from injury and is batting .333 over his first four games back in action.
Barton will be competing against Bloomsburg for the first time under the leadership of third year head coach Joshua Simmons.
Bloomsburg University Baseball
The Huskies are off to a 4-2 start, playing all six of those games in a four day span at the Builder Invitational. Bloomsburg was 21-27 last season but finished strong going 17-9 in the final month of the season to gain momentum into 2014.
BU has a veteran squad that returns eight of its top nine batting averages from a year ago. Sophomore first baseman Joey Casselberry was named to the Builder Invite All-Tournament Team after batting .409 with nine RBI. Other highlighted batters in the Huskies lineup includes sophomore Brian Almand, who was named All-PSAC East and PSAC East Freshman of the Year in 2013. Almand has struggled to start the season batting .190.
Senior center fielder Brad Smith (.364) leads Bloomsburg with six runs scored while junior left fielder A.J. Stump (.385) and sophomore catcher Corey Bajada (.381) are both off to hot starts in five games played.
The Huskies are proven to be swift of foot swiping 15 of 17 bases in the early going for an average of 2.5 thefts per game. Junior second baseman Tim Ravel (4 of 5) and freshman outfielder Brady west (3 of 3) lead Bloomsburg on the base paths.
Senior right-handed starter Casey Cooperman led the Huskies with a 2.36 ERA in 10 starts last season and has opened his final season with a complete-game 9-1 victory over perennial power Kutztown University. Cooperman's one run allowed was unearned. Sophomore Matt Jaskolka (0.00 ERA), sophomore Sean McCloskey (0.00) and Jody Hearne (1.50) are all 1-0 on the mound.