Weather may prevent the baseball team from playing any more games in the near future, but that could help the Yellowjackets by giving them time to correct the problems that led to a 2-6-1 record on their spring break trip to Florida.

“With the way we played down south, we have a lot of work ahead of us,” head coach Joe Reina said. “Practices are going to be more intense and we’re going to get after it.”

UR posted two wins over Case Western Reserve University, but was unable to defeat any other team on the trip.

“I think it’s a little disappointing, but at the same time, the real season begins when you come back up north,” Reina said. “We had flashes of playing pretty good baseball.”

Two of the brightest flashes were second-year players.

Sophomore first baseman Mike Lesczinski led the offense with a .429 average, 2 home runs, 5 runs and 5 RBI. He slugged .762 and posted a .478 on-base percentage.

“He’s one of our promising young guys, who in my opinion has as much talent as anybody I’ve seen,” Reina said. “He needs to keep doing what he’s doing, and I think he will.”

Lesczinski is happy that he got off to a good start over spring break. Last year he struggled at the beginning of the season and it bothered him throughout the year.

“Last year I was really disappointed in my effort [in Florida] and it really affected me the whole year,” Lesczinski said. “This year I expect to bat at least .400 and get my power numbers up there.”

Lesczinski is one of the keys for an offense that struggled to score runs in Florida. The Yellowjackets batted .253 and scored 25 runs in nine games.

“We had one group of people hitting one day and the next day the other group was hitting. We’ve got to develop more consistency and hit all as a team,” Lesczinski said. “I think I’m definitely a key, but there are some other guys on the team that are just as important as I am.”

Junior pitcher Justin Davis posted a complete game win over Case Western and leads the UR staff with a 2.33 ERA.

“Justin Davis pitched extremely well,” Reina said. “He’s starting to grasp the idea of pitching.”

Davis agreed with his coach’s assessment. He has been working on using different pitches and different spots in the count.

“It helps out so much just knowing when to throw a pitch outside and not giving them too good of a pitch when you don’t have to,” Davis said. “In high school it was just fastball, curveball and they couldn’t hit either one, but it’s a completely different game now.”

Davis is also helped by the presence of three seniors in the rotation.

“The help me out a lot because they’ve all been around the game longer than I have,” Davis said. “It’s great to have them around just for their leadership and their knowledge.”

An experienced pitching staff could be the key to a good season for UR.

“We should be the heart of this team,” Davis said. “I plan on keeping us in, if not winning, every game that I start and basically giving our hitters the opportunity to win.”

Reina sees plenty of talent on this team, but he also knows they need to play better in order to accomplish their goal of winning the Upstate Collegiate Athletic Association and an automatic bid to the NCAA Div. III Tournament.

“If we start doing things right, my expectations are to the NCAAs,” Reina said. “We have the talent and that’s why a 2-6-1 record coming back from Florida is so frustrating.”

The lack of offense is one of the biggest concerns for Reina.

“Our middle of the lineup has to produce. One of our sore spots is team speed, so we have to rely on the middle of the lineup to produce runs,” Reina said. “I understand it’s early and they will come around because they’re too good not to.”

Lesczinski thinks that it will just be a matter of time before the rest of the offense catches up to him and the team starts to roll.

“We definitely have the talent to win and everybody knows that,” he said. “It’s just going to take a little while to gel. I think this week off before we play again is going to do that.”

Senior third baseman Kris Kiefer is another player who got off to a good start at the plate and thinks the rest of the team will get going soon enough. He batted .421 with three runs and three RBI.

“We’ve just got to believe in ourselves,” Kiefer said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys who can hit the ball really well. It’s just getting our confidence back and swinging the bat like we know we can.”

“I think we’re definitely capable of winning the UCAA. We’ve just got to put everything together and I think we’re just a step or two away from doing that.”

The team definitely has the talent to compete for the UCAA title, but Reina knows that UR cannot afford to have a slow start or a bad weekend.

“In a conference like this, one or two losses could be the difference between whether you’re winning it or finishing second or third,” he said.

Jacobs can be reached at bjacobs@campustimes.org.



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