Ravens swept; still pursue spot in HCAC tournament


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With a hole to dig out of to make the conference tournament and three games at home over the weekend, the Ravens looked to take at least two games from the visiting Earlham Quakers. Anderson was unable to do so, instead getting swept by the Quakers. Earlham outscored the Ravens 25-10 in the series, taking game one 4-1, game two 10-3 and game three 11-6. The Ravens racked up 29 hits on the weekend, only one less than the Quakers, but stranded 27 base runners. The inability to plate base runners was the difference in the series.

“We didn’t execute when we needed to execute,” said shortstop Nick Butcher. “We were good offensively, but still need to be better. We didn’t get hits when we needed  them in key situations.”

While the results of the games were less than ideal, it was still a special weekend at Don Brandon Field.  Coach Don Brandon, the field’s namesake, was honored before game one of Saturday’s doubleheader.  Brandon coached the Ravens for 38 seasons and won 1,100 games during his time at the helm.

“It was awesome to see Coach be celebrated in the way he deserved,” said John Becker. “I didn’t play for him, but he’s still been a huge part of the program in my three years here.”

The celebratory weekend continued after game two of the series. In addition to honoring Coach Brandon, AU honored their four seniors, Lane Hanzel, Kyle Otolski, Brian Page and Augdan Wilson before the final game of the series.  Hanzel reflected on his time in the black and orange with great pride.  “Being a Raven has meant being a part of something bigger than myself,” he said. “It is a tradition that has been here a very long time.  It has been a privilege to play for the Ravens knowing the great expectations that come along.  The relationships that I have built because of this program are something that will last me for the rest of my life.”

Still, the Ravens were looking for wins on the weekend and were unable to come away with any.

“Moving forward,” Butcher said, “we need to stay positive for our last eight games.”

There are many positives to dwell upon moving forward.  Austin Cain, the reigning HCAC Hitter of the Week, and Branton Sanders continued to produce in the middle of the lineup.  Cain have two of three highest batting averages on the team, with Cain hitting .337 and Sanders batting .322.  The two have battled for the team lead in RBI throughout the season.  Sanders has driven in 31 runs compared to Cain’s 28.  Sanders was a home run shy of the cycle in game three, the second time he has been a big fly away this season.

The Ravens also have Wil Davis’ bat back in the lineup, as he is now at full strength.  Davis is hitting .314 on the year with 21 RBI.

“In our conference, it’s not about how you start,” Butcher said. “It’s all about how you finish.  Anyone can get hot at the right time and make a run for the conference tournament.  We are looking to get hot starting this week.”

With eight conference games left, the Ravens sit three games back of the fourth and final qualifying spot in the conference tournament.  They will look to gain some ground in the standings over four games this week.  They hosted Rose-Hulman last night (result unavailable at time of publishing), before traveling to Franklin for a three game series this weekend.  The Grizzlies currently sit in the all important fourth spot in the HCAC standings.

“A sweep is always tough to come back from, especially when it was at home,” said Becker.  “We just have to realize that we are not out of this race yet.  This weekend is a huge series, and coming away with two or three wins puts us right back in the heart of the race.”

Butcher believes the team’s resilience will enable the team to stay in the race until the very end.  “Collectively,” he said, “there is a whole lot of fight in our team.  We  never give up, and given our youth, that’s an incredibly vital trait to have.”