Not many weekends of baseball have gone as planned this season for St. Louis University, but the most recent trip to New York to play Fordham in a three-game series was especially challenging for the Billikens. And ultimately, rewarding.
SLU (15-12) won two of three games in about 24 hours to open Atlantic 10 play after some unexpected travel glitches left the Billikens traveling on a red-eye flight the day of the series opener.
The baseball details were promising as SLU’s three starting pitchers did not allow an earned run throughout the series Then instead of playing Sunday, the team took a tour that included a stop at the site of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.
The rigors of the weekend made coach Darin Hendrickson even more happy to be at home this weekend for a series against Richmond, starting Saturday.
“I have a lot of admiration for our guys to a new level,” Hendrickson said. “It was a cool trip and when the players look back, they’ll remember it the rest of their lives. It was nice to win a series on the road. We went to ‘ground zero.’ We were able to have a lot of gratitude and enjoy our situation.”
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The trip started on Thursday morning with multiple flight delays that eventually sent the Billikens back to campus. They returned for a 9 p.m. flight, eventually left at midnight and got to their hotel at 5:30 a.m.
Fordham agreed to delay Friday’s series opener from 3 to 6 p.m. But with bad weather coming Sunday, a doubleheader had to be scheduled for Saturday.
The Billikens won 2-1 in the first game, lost 4-3 early Saturday and won the final game 7-4 that afternoon. Starting pitchers Logan Schmitt, Trevor Harris and Scott Youngbrandt combined to pitch 20 1/3 innings, allowing two unearned runs on 18 hits. They struck out 19 and walked five.
“We pitched extraordinary,” Hendrickson said. “Even with our best staffs, I don’t remember giving up no earned runs in all three games.”
Although the cold weather probably helped, the pitching was a huge sign of improvement. SLU started the season with a team ERA over 10.00 for a stretch as Hendrickson and new assistant Adam Revelette sought answers.
SLU has allowed 15 or more runs in four games. But after starting 2-6, the Billikens have won 13 of their last 19. They face Richmond at the Billiken Sports Center on Saturday at noon and 3:30 and on Sunday at noon.
Hendrickson knows that wind patterns at the home stadium could change the outcome of the pitching numbers at any time. But after having some concerns about the rotation in the early weeks of the season, he sees reason for hope.
“I give a lot of credit to coach Revelette for calming the waters,” Hendrickson said. “He just came on in February into a tough situation. He gave the guys a voice, and they kind of slowly got confidence each time out.”
The staff is not overpowering by any means. SLU ranks No. 204 out of 298 teams in strikeouts per nine innings. But the Billikens have dramatically reduced the number of walks they issue.
Although opponents have hit .294 to SLU’s .256, the trends have started to swing. Kyle Fitzgerald leads the team at .330 and 20 RBIs, while Tyler Fogarty has seven homers and 20 RBIs.
Yet again, SLU will play a doubleheader this weekend after Friday’s opener was pushed back a day due to weather. Weekend series against Illinois State, Austin Peay and Purdue-Fort Wayne also had to be revamped because of bad weather.