Tracking the Turks: Week of Mar. 29-Apr. 4

Multiple Turks players heated up at the plate over the past week. Here are some of the top highlights from this week’s action. 

On the Mound

Liam McDonnell (James Madison) returned to the mound for the first time in over three weeks as he started in the Dukes’ 9-3 victory over Charleston on Saturday. McDonnell pitched five innings of two-run ball, scattering six hits and striking out three batters to earn his first win of the season.

Season stats: 1-0, 5.94 ERA, 16.2 IP, 13 K

Logan McClure (West Virginia Tech) got the start in WVU Tech’s 11-5 win over Brescia (KY), tossing 4.2 innings of shutout ball and allowing only a hit and a walk while striking out three. It was his third scoreless appearance of the season, and he was credited with the win to improve his record to 2-1 on the year.

Season stats: 1-1, 5.47 ERA, 24.2 IP, 24 K/13 BB, 0.4 HR/9

In the Batter’s Box

Jake McCaw (Illinois State) heated up at the plate over the week, hitting 8-for-17 with four RBI in five games. In Sunday’s contest against #28 Southern Illinois, McCaw went 2-for-4 with three runs driven in, including an RBI single and an RBI double to score the first three runs of the game. Illinois State won the game 14-11 and took three of four games from the Salukis. McCaw now has a five-game hitting streak.

Season stats: 21 GP/19 GS, .313 AVG, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 11 R

Jordan Sweeney (Rutgers) had an impressive weekend, going 7-for-12 with five RBI in a three-game series against Penn State. He went 3-for-4 in Friday’s contest, and followed that up with a solo homer in Saturday’s game, scoring the team’s only run. On Sunday, Sweeney delivered the decisive blast: a go-ahead grand slam to right center in the eighth inning, giving Rutgers a 6-4 lead as they would go on to salvage a game in the series. Sweeney now has multiple hits in three of his last four games.

Season stats: 15 GP/15 GS, .317 AVG, .717 SLG, 6 HR, 22 RBI

Clay Lockett (Southern Nazarene) picked up the slack at the plate in his team’s weekend series against Northwestern Oklahoma State, homering twice in Friday’s game while collecting three hits in total. Lockett had at least one hit in each game of the series, collectively batting 6-for-8 with four walks, four runs scored, and two RBI.

Season stats: 22 GP/22 GS, .301 AVG, .589 SLG, 1.011 OPS, 5 HR, 9 RBI, 14 BB

Tracking the Turks: March 22-28

Another week of collegiate baseball action was highlighted by several Turks players impressing at the plate. 

On the Mound

Eric Adler

Eric Adler (Wake Forest) continued his string of scoreless relief appearances, pitching in three games over the week while not allowing a run, giving him seven consecutive scoreless outings. This included two appearances against No. 17 Florida State over the weekend as Adler struck out four batters in total and earned the save in both contests as the Demon Deacons took two of three from the Seminoles on the road.

Season stats: 9 app, 2.08 ERA, 8.2 IP, 13/5 K/BB, .229 B/AVG

Mac Callari (Wingate) helped his team to another victory on Friday, as he came out of the bullpen and tossed 4.2 innings of shutout ball to earn his first win of the season against Carson-Newman. Callari struck out five hitters and walked just one as Wingate won 12-7.

Season stats: 1-0, 2.10 ERA, 25.2 IP, 23/12 K/BB, .172 B/AVG, 

In the Batter’s Box

Logan McNeely (Wingate) was a run-producing machine for the Bulldogs, driving in six runs over the weekend in the Bulldogs’ sweep of Carson-Newman. McNeely recorded at least one hit, RBI, and run scored in each contest, highlighted by a two-run homer in the first inning of Sunday’s 3-2 victory. This came in addition to a two-RBI performance against No. 8 Mount Olive in the midweek game, which Wingate also won.

Season stats: 17 GP/17 GS, .322 AVG, 8 2B, 2 HR, 22 RBI, .559 SLG

Caleb Bartolero

Carlos Bartolero (Troy) heated up at the plate over the week, batting 7-for-17 with five RBI and three multi-hit games over a four-game stretch. His two-RBI single in the fifth inning of Saturday’s victory over UCF proved to be the difference maker, as they were the only runs the Trojans scored in their 2-1 win. Overall, Bartolero is riding a six-game hitting streak.

Season stats: 20 GP/19 GS, .254 AVG, 1 HR, 14 RBI

Clay Lockett (Southern Nazarene) helped his team to a hard-fought 5-3 win on Sunday over Harding, their first victory in eight games. Lockett went 1-for-3 with two runs scored and two walks, highlighted by a solo homer to lead off the game as the Crimson Storm opened the contest with back-to-back-to-back home runs. He also went 2-for-4 with a double in Saturday’s affair.

Season stats: 18 GP/18 GS, .250 AVG, 3 HR, 7 RBI

Tracking the Turks: Week of March 15-21

Several Turks players impressed at the plate and on the pitcher’s mound over the past week, including some big-time pitching performances in relief.

On the Mound

Eric Adler (Wake Forest) made two appearances over the week, pitching a scoreless inning of relief on both occasions. This included action in the series opener against Georgia Tech on Friday, in which the freshman did not allow a batter to reach base safely.

Season stats: 4 app, 0.00 ERA, 4.2 IP, .118 B/AVG

Bryce Travis

Bryce Travis (Eastern Kentucky) threw two innings of shutout ball in Eastern Kentucky’s 6-3 upset of No. 7 Louisville last Tuesday. He struck out two hitters and did not yield a hit or walk en route to earning the win. Travis followed that up with another stellar performance against UT Martin the following Saturday, allowing no earned runs in three innings while striking out five as he improved his record to 2-0 on the young season.

Season stats: 2-0, 1.84 ERA, 14.2 IP, 19/5 K/BB, .140 B/AVG

In the Batter’s Box

Logan McNeely

Logan McNeely (Wingate) had an impressive weekend at the plate, going 3-for-5 in Wingate’s 10-4 victory over Coker on Saturday. All three hits were doubles, and he collected four RBI in total. McNeeley chipped in another RBI with a first-inning single in Sunday’s series finale.

Season stats: 13 GP/GS, .326 AVG, 14 RBI, 8 BB, .457 SLG

Fredric Walter (Oklahoma City) was an RBI machine in the Stars’ weekend series at Texas Wesleyan, as the senior hit 7-for-12 with seven runs driven in over three games, highlighted by a solo home run in a 19-7 victory on Friday. In all, Oklahoma City scored 41 runs as they took two of three in the series.

Season stats: 21 GP/GS, .338 AVG, 2 HR, 15 RBI, .405 OBP, .538 SLG

Peyton Crispin (Oklahoma City) also chipped in to the Stars’ winning efforts, hitting 2-for-3 with three RBI, two runs, and a walk in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader against Texas Wesleyan. Crispin launched a two-run homer to left center in the second inning that gave Oklahoma City the lead for good. He had another two-hit game in Sunday’s matinee.

Season stats: 23 GP/GS, .288 AVG, 2 HR, 11 RBI, .475 SLG

A Season Unlike Any Other: How COVID-19 is Impacting the 2021 College Baseball Season

Written by Brien Krug
Turks Staff Writer
March 23, 2021

“Shocked”, this was the response that Jimmy Jackson, a 6-year Associate Head Coach and Pitching Coach for the JMU Dukes Baseball Team, had when asked what his initial reaction was to the news that broke on March 12th, 2020. About a year ago to date the world was put on pause, as COVID-19 started to evolve from just another virus to a world-wide pandemic. The NCAA along with other major sports leagues like the NBA, NHL and MLB were forced to either postpone or cancel the remainder of their 2020 seasons. This not only left coaches “shocked” but also left the collegiate athletes stunned and devastated.

The Dukes had just come off a big 4-2 win at Maryland and redshirt junior pitcher Liam McDonnell recalled the team being somewhat excited about the news. “All that we knew were that classes were cancelled. So everyone was like alright we’re gonna go here, play baseball and not have to do class.” Redshirt junior outfielder for the JMU baseball team, Conor Hartigan, recalls the day like it was yesterday. Hartigan was actually taking the day off to rest for the upcoming weekend series against Niagara University not knowing it would be his last opportunity to practice for the year. “Everything happened so fast,” said Hartigan, “First they postponed our weekend game, then it was you can only play conference games, then it was your season is over .” Following the news there was a lot of disappointment , especially for the seniors. “It was pretty heartbreaking for those guys,” stated Michael Morgan, a redshirt junior catcher for the Dukes, “and even for us it was tough to take in the news.” However, after the dust settled it was time for the players to get back to work.

With the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic came closures of a lot of gyms, training facilities and summer leagues. During this time period it was difficult for the players to workout. In order to stay in good shape some players like Conor Hartigan would curl baskets of rocks, squat boulders and flip tires, “I was just doing anything I could” said Hartigan. Eventually gyms re-opened and collegiate summer baseball leagues started popping up. Both Hartigan and Morgan played in the Northern Virginia College League (NVCL), which featured 8 teams and 174 players from 83 different colleges and universities in its inaugural year. Meanwhile, Liam McDonnell stayed local and played in the Rockingham County Baseball League. This league was mainly a men’s league but with all the collegiate summer leagues getting cancelled a lot of players followed McDonnell. “We were all pretty grateful for that, to be able to stay on our feet and play,” proclaimed Hartigan. These collegiate leagues ran all the way to the beginning of August which led right into the off-season.

Along with almost every aspect of life during COVID, the college off-season for JMU had to be altered to adhere to new COVID-19 protocols. “Everything was very odd,” said Coach Jackson, “there were 3-4 lift groups compared to two and on the field we were in small groups for an extended period of time.” The team also had to go through an extended quarantine as players and close contacts began to test positive for the virus. “I think we were the last team on campus to start practice,” explained Jackson. He admits that it was looking bad for the program to start the off-season but there was a positive to it, “Once we did start [practice] we were one of the only teams to not have a shutdown period.” So after the initial COVID shutdown the team was able to power through all the way to the Thanksgiving break. “The whole process has been different to say the least,” Coach Jackson said.

Just about 1 month into the 2021 spring season 39 series/games have been either postponed or cancelled across the NCAA. Universities have been ramping up COVID protocols resulting in major changes to how the team operates. One of the most noticeable changes was the introduction of Kinexon Player Tracking devices. These devices use new technology to identify when players are within 6-feet of each other for an extended period of time. The device can either blink red or start to beep. “I would be standing in a bullpen and if I walk too close and start talking to a teammate for a couple seconds the device would start beeping,” exclaimed Jackson. Procedures for road trips have also been modified. For example, the team has to leave the morning of a game rather than the day before in order to limit the time spent in the hotel. There are no team meals at a restaurant, rather all the food is either carry-out or delivered to the hotel. In addition, roommate selections have changed as well. “We may have a freshman pitcher travel and put him with someone who is older,” said Jackson, “now we put guys on the road with their actual roommate from home because if someone were to test positive or start to experience symptoms your gonna take down your roommate anyway so you may as well stay with your roommate.” The last change in road trip procedures is the frequency of COVID testing. The players are tested twice a week on the week of road trips with the first test coming right before the team leaves on Friday morning and again on the Monday they return. Major adjustments have also been made to the dugout and seating arrangements for players, JMU coaches and managers took painters tape and marked off 32 spaces where players would be allowed to sit or stand in the dugout, down the left field line or in the bullpen. Also, just like in the 2020 MLB season, JMU has been using the stands as an extension of the dugout.

All these changes have been tough for the players and coaches but the Dukes have yet to have any trouble so far in this young season. “Everybody is pretty focused on our goal,” said Morgan. This goal of course is the big prize, a CAA championship and a trip to Omaha and the College World Series. “This is what we have practiced for. This is what we are playing for,” Coach Jackson said. “We have a lot of older guys and a few seniors that came back from last year,” Morgan said, “we’ll have a very experienced lineup and a handful of experienced pitchers so if we can put it all together we can have a lot of success.” We’ll see if the Dukes can put everything together and reach college baseball’s highest honor for the first time since 1983, while also battling the invisible opponent.

Tracking the Turks: Week of March 8-14

Turks players from across the collegiate baseball landscape made their mark over the past week, including several big-time performances at the plate.

On the Mound

Jared Donalson

Jared Donalson (Georgia Southwestern State) pitched a gem on Saturday, tossing seven innings of one-run ball in the Hurricanes’ 7-1 victory over Clifton. He surrendered only five hits and two walks while striking out eight to earn the win.

Season stats: 1-0, 2.74 ERA, 23 IP, 16 K

Ben Sieracki (Elon) hurled three scoreless innings of relief in his team’s 10-4 win over North Carolina A&T on Saturday afternoon. Sieracki struck out three hitters and was tagged for only two hits. He earned the win to improve his record to 1-1 on the season.

Season stats: 1-1, 3.12 ERA, 8.2 IP, .235 B/AVG

Bryce Travis (Eastern Kentucky) got the start for the Colonels against Marshall last Tuesday, pitching two innings and allowing only an unearned win while fanning three batters in the no-decision. Eastern Kentucky used seven different pitchers in a gritty 2-1 victory. 

Season stats: 1-0, 2.31 ERA, 11.2 IP, .150 B/AVG

In the Batter’s Box

Caleb Bartolero

Caleb Bartolero (Troy) had a spectacular day at the plate on Saturday, going 4-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored in the Trojans’ 12-3 triumph over visiting Tulane. The effort was highlighted by his two-run homer in the sixth inning. Bartolero also caught the Troy pitching staff that allowed only ten baserunners all game.

Season stats: 13 GP/12 GS, 7 RBI, 1 HR

Logan McNeely (Wingate) had perhaps his best game of the season last Wednesday, as he went 4-for-6 with a season-high five RBI. Three of his hits were doubles, including a two-run double that opened the scoring in the first inning.

Season stats: 11 GP/11 GS, .289 AVG, 9 RBI, .404 OBP

Jordan Sweeney (Rutgers) had a productive weekend, recording seven total RBI in a three-game series at Maryland. The first baseman recorded at least one hit and one RBI in each of the three games, highlighted by a two-run homer in the third inning of Saturday’s 8-7 victory. In all, Sweeney hit 4-for-10 with two homers and a walk as Rutgers took two of three from the Terrapins.

Season stats: 8 GP/8 GS, .281 AVG, 13 RBI, 3 HR

Conor Hartigan (James Madison) recorded hits in all three games against VMI over the weekend, highlighted by Saturday’s performance in which he hit 3-for-6 with a three-RBI double in a losing effort.

Season stats: 9 GP/8 GS, .333 AVG, 9 RBI (leads team), 1 HR, 3 HBP, .950 OPS

Fredric Walter

Fredric Walter (Oklahoma City) was an RBI machine over the week, as he drove in nine runs five games, including six in a doubleheader at LSU-Shreveport on Saturday. That included a go-ahead two-run homer in the fifth inning of the second game, which gave the Stars a lead they would not relinquish en route to a 12-4 victory.

Season stats: 21 GP/21 GS, .297 BA, 23 RBI, 4 HR, 6 BB, .609 SLG