The Raven baseball team has put together a very promising start, building off of their success from last season. The team finished their non-conference season with an 8-6 record, good enough for fourth in the HCAC thus far.
Part of their early success is due to their excellent starting pitching, specifically from junior Joe Moran. After making nine starts a season ago and posting an impressive 3.75 ERA, Moran came into the season as the likely ace. He has solidified himself in that role with a 3-0 record through 4 starts and a 1.42 ERA. Over his 19 innings pitched, Moran has allowed just three earned runs and has recorded 25 strikeouts.
“I attribute my success early in the season to the hard work and preparation that took place this winter,” said Moran. “I worked every day to make sure I was able to be my best version of myself at the start of the season. And God has blessed me with an amazing talent, so all glory to Him.”
Moran is not only a force on the mound, but has also started 10 games as the team’s designated hitter. Last season he crushed the ball, with a .311 batting average to go along with a team high three home runs and 33 runs batted in.
This season, he hasn’t had the same hot start but is still posting respectable numbers at the plate. The Ravens will look for an uptick in his numbers as they open conference play, while still trying to manage his heavy workload.
“Conference season is pretty grueling at times,” added Moran. “So I will just make sure to stick to the plans that my coaches put in front of me. I try to get into a routine as much as I can to keep my body functioning. That includes eating habits, sleep schedule and weight lifting plans.”
Moran’s durability will be something to monitor as the season goes on. The team likes to put him on the mound as much as they can, but know they can’t over excessively the junior if they want him in the lineup as the DH as well.
While the Ravens have certainly benefited from the versatility and production of Moran, they have had other stars emerge this season. Sophomore catcher MJ Furnish has solidified himself as a difference maker this season, leading the team in batting average and slugging percentage through the non-conference part of the season.
“I put a lot of work in this offseason, and so did the rest of the guys,” Furnish said about his break-out season. “When I wasn’t in class, eating or sleeping, I often found myself spending at least three hours a day in the KWC working out and getting in some baseball specific reps. There are ups and downs in every season, and it has been very nice to start on the upside. I’m excited to see how our team continues to improve. We have a lot of talented players on this team.”
After senior catcher Jacob Morgan graduated last spring, the Ravens paired Furnish with Adam Paschal as their rotation of catchers.
Furnish began the season batting towards the bottom of the order and only seeing the occasional start in relief of Paschal. He was looked at more for his strong defense than his abilities at the plate. After an injury forced Paschal to miss several games, Furnish stepped in and caught the eye of his coaches and teammates.
During the team’s Florida trip, Furnish was so hot at the plate that he made starts in left field, a position he had never played in an actual game, when the team wanted to work in other catchers. In six games started, he recorded an on-base percentage of .476 and a batting average of .353.
Depth is important in all of baseball, but is crucial at the catcher position due to the strain put on your body from crouching down for nine innings. The emergence of Furnish at the plate along with the solid defense by both Furnish and Paschal has been an added bonus for the Ravens thus far.
“Our team has done a lot of things right,” said Furnish. “The biggest one is that we have created a culture that pursues excellence in everything we do, whether it be on the field, in the classroom or in life. We have played really well defensively as a team, and our pitchers have performed incredibly. The biggest thing our team can work on is consistently putting together quality at bats and clutch hits. We have had some amazing games as hitters, but there are occasions where we haven’t created as many runs as we should have. With as much talent as we have, I’m confident we will get there.”
The Ravens have had a total of eight games postponed so far this season, including their scheduled HCAC opener against Defiance. They will host Mount St. Joeseph Saturday for a double-header, starting at 1 p.m.