Gators set sights on NCAC playoff birth

The Allegheny baseball team is now able to say something that they haven’t been able to in a few seasons.

“If we win, we’re in,” said outfielder Zach Nichols, ’11. “And that’s a great feeling just to know that we’re in control of our own destiny.”

With a split against Wooster in Saturday’s double-header, the Gators are now in sole possession of second place in the NCAC East Division, and will qualify for the conference tournament if they continue their success against Kenyon and Oberlin (the top two from the East and West divisions make the tournament).

The Gators were on both ends of 2–1 games against heated rival and perennial NCAC powerhouse Wooster on Saturday, which also resulted in a split of the season series at two games apiece. With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Nichols, in his first at bat after being a defensive replacement in the sixth, blasted a towering solo homerun over the left field fence.

“It was definitely one of the best moments of my career,” he said. “Hitting a homerun against a top 5 team and also in such a rivalry game was just awesome.”

Though the homerun did give the Gators an exciting win, it was the Gator pitching that held Wooster to just three runs for the day.

“Our pitchers were really lights out,” said head coach Kelly Swiney.

Although he got a no-decision in the loss Saturday, pitcher Matt Dishong, ’10, continued his dominant pitching against the Fighting Scots, throwing nine innings and only allowing one run, giving him one earned run in 17 innings against Wooster.

Dishong points to more aggressiveness with his entire arsenal of pitches, which allows him to control the game, but also trusts the players behind him.

“I just nod my head and try to throw the pitch how and where our catchers want it and let our defense go to work,” he said.

Unfortunately for the Gators, their offense has not been as strong as it started, and Swiney would like to see the bats start to come around as their four games against Kenyon this weekend approach.

“We hit so well early in the year, and now we need to get back to fundamental swings,” Swiney said.

Nichols added that despite their success thus far, the team is still trying to reach their ideal balanced attack.

“We’re really not swinging the bat all that well. The pitching has been really good, but we’re trying to get the pitching and the hitting together,” he said. “We’re not there yet, but we’re really close.”

Now that their performance will decide what the NCAC playoff picture will look like, the team is excited and motivated to perform well in the next eight conference games.

“It’s awesome to not have to worry about or check what other teams have done,” Dishong said. “If we do what we can we should get what we want and we can’t blame anyone else but ourselves if we don’t.”

The Gators will now go into today’s game against Pitt-Bradford with a 15–8 record as well as the chance to fine-tune their game for the weekend’s action against the Kenyon Lords.

“We’ve really got to take advantage of practice [Wednesday], the game [today], and practice again on Friday because we need to get going a little bit so that we’re ready for the weekend,” he said. “We’ve obviously done a lot of good things, but one bad weekend can really put us in a hole.”

The Gators will start their series at Kenyon on Saturday scheduled for 1 p.m. as they try to secure their first playoff appearance since the 2007 season.