Baseball starting to find their groove – Sports editor opines on the state of Gator baseball in 2023

The 2023 baseball season has been a surprise to Allegheny players, coaches and fans as the team sits with a 12-12 record more than halfway through their campaign. The program had high expectations coming into the year after finishing 24-15 in the unyielding North Coast Athletic Conference in 2022, and fans are wondering if they can finish strong in order to make a run in the playoffs after switching to the Presidents’ Athletic Conference last summer.

Despite winning six out of the last eight games, there are still concerns regarding the team’s consistency. After a tough spring trip in Tucson, AZ, the Gators came back to the northeast and took down the No. 3 nationally ranked Yellow Jackets of Baldwin Wallace University. It was a huge win packed with timely hits and resilient pitching, and it seemed that the Gators were back to their regular style of winning baseball.

After taking home another two wins in a double-header against Franciscan University, they had a chance to get a big streak going against Westminster College. Allegheny was leading in both games heading into the ninth inning, but gave up the lead and lost them both.

The struggles have shown in multiple facets throughout this stretch. The defense struggled towards the beginning of the year, but has played much better since their spring trip. Now, it is a mix of pitching and hitting, with both realms showing up some days, and vanishing on others.

What has been interesting to see is the different players fielded throughout the season. The roster is loaded with talent, and there are 18 guys that have at least 10 at-bats. But, it still seems like Head Coach Brandon Crum is trying to find the nine who will regularly produce game in and game out.

That is not to take credit away from Crum. He has led this roster since 2016 and continues to put good teams on the playing surface. As a former player and now being their team broadcaster, I have seen the hours upon hours of work he puts in to improve his team. Typically, though, it is unusual to see experimentation this late in the season.

Despite the whole lineup not set in stone, there is a regular cast of players that have shown face in the order almost every game. The work that Sullivan Scheultz, ’23, Chase Chodkowski, ’23, Ryan Dougherty, ’24, Brady Nolin, ’25, Matt Jennings, ’25, and Tyson Bryant-Dawson, ’25, have displayed is impressive. Each of these players are big contributors, yet the question remains: Who will fill out the rest of the array during the final stretch?

One player to keep an eye out for is Andrew Stablewski, ’24. He has seen more time on the diamond as a pinch hitter and designated hitter for the Gators, and is hitting .467 in 15 at-bats. Though it is a small sample size, he has four hits in the last three ballgames, with six RBIs and three doubles.

The starting rotation has been solid overall, especially as of late. A couple of hiccups here and there, but there cannot be the expectation to throw shutouts every game. Conor Deasy, ’23, and Bobby Kusinsky, ’23, continue to shine, and the Gators have found additional talent for multiple innings in the southpaw Brent Herrmann, ’24, and flamethrower Mark Schweikert, ’25. While the bullpen has held their own in many games, how they will continue to progress is unpredictable as there are only a handful of players that have seen significant innings.

Their most recent stretch of play has certainly been more of what people have expected. They are currently fourth in the PAC with a 5-3 conference record after a twinbill sweep against Bethany on Wednesday, April 12, reaching the .500 mark for the second time this season — if the ladder were to stand as is, the Gators would grab the last seed in the playoff race. They also tallied the most runs for a single game of their season in the second contest, registering 22 on the board. Allegheny still has plenty of more opportunities to keep climbing the ranks in the conference with 14 games left in the regular season.

Despite the Gators playing more unfamiliar competition so far throughout their 2023 season, the back half is loaded with conference foes, which will show where they stand among the teams that matter most. Each game from here on out is critical.

They face the No.7 seed Chatham University on Saturday, April 15, and need another pair of victories in order to keep the momentum going. The true test will be at the beginning of May, as Allegheny will play Washington and Jefferson College on the road for the final two games of the season. This will show how much they are moving forward with another ten games in between the Presidents and the Cougars. Allegheny has the pieces to the puzzle they are trying to solve. It is just about putting them in the right place and making sure the edges align so they don’t occasionally pop out.