A preview of the 2021 CNU Baseball and Softball seasons
~Matthew Morhiser, Sports Editor~
Christopher Newport University (CNU) Men’s Baseball and Women’s Softball are back, ladies and gentlemen. Well, almost. At the end of this month, both teams will put an end to their almost one-year-long off-seasons with their opening day matchups. Opening day is typically the time for ball clubs to put the highest highs and woeful woes of the previous season behind them, but for once, this time honored tradition will not be the same as it usually is. For both of CNU’s baseball and softball teams, their seasons were cut short in compliance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Virginia Department of Health (VDH) released guidelines concerning the spread of COVID-19. It’s kind of difficult to put the last season behind you when you never received any real form of closure on it. You will always have the “what could have been’s” in the back of your mind when something you dedicate a considerable amount of your time towards is halted, and even more so when its conclusion arrives so abruptly. Luckily, our CNU athletes have so much more to look forward to. Like the Baseball Team’s start on Feb. 28, and the Softball Team’s first game a day prior on Feb. 27. Not to dwell on the past too much, but each team demonstrated a level of excellence that should carry over to their 2021 campaigns and conference play. Let’s take a look at what the CNU fans can look forward to from their favorite slugging Captains in just a few weeks time.
The Men’s Baseball Team last played on Mar. 10 of last year. Their unexpected season finale came against Bridgewater College in a road game at Bridgewater Baseball Field. The game was a winning effort for the Captains, as they downed the Eagles by a final lopsided score of 20 to 12. That win, at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday, put the Captains commandingly above .500 with an overall record of 10-4. CNU’s win marked their fourth in a row against Bridgewater, and even more impressively, their sixth in a row during the 2020 season after starting 4-4. So, what exactly sparked a change for the boys in royal blue and grey? For starters, the team was scoring runs at an incredible rate. In all six of the games, the Captains scored at least 10 runs, and in four of the six competitions, the Captains scored at least 18 runs. The team was firing on all cylinders, and it was due, in part, to the performance of now senior outfielder Conner Clark. In the six game timeframe, Clark had 15 runs (R), 15 hits (H), 11 runs batted in (RBI) and two stolen bases (SB) in a total of 26 at bats (AB). Not to be outdone, now senior utility player Trey Hicks posted similar astronomical statistics during the exact same period. Hicks had 13 R, 13 H, 11 RBI and four home runs (HR) in only 22 AB. If the ending to last season is any indication, Clark and Hicks will be stuffing the stat sheet with comparable colossal numbers this season.
Of course, it’s not all about hitting. You need good and reliable pitching to win ball games. CNU has just that in sophomore right handed pitcher Connor Pennell. The team used a wealth of pitchers across the 14 games, so Pennell finished only with a win-loss record of 1-0 last season. However, he posted an earned run average (ERA) of 3.27, pitched in 22 innings (IP), struck out 21 batters (SO) and allowed only 1 HR (HRA). Pennell will look to build on his freshman campaign this season as a returning leader in the bullpen.
Much like Men’s Baseball, CNU Women’s Softball is coming off a short, yet impressive season. So much so, they have garnered the no. three rank in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s (NFCA) Pre-Season National Poll. With only Marshall, Tx’s East Texas Baptist University and Seguin, Tx’s Texas Lutheran University ahead of them, it is clear the Captains have the nation’s attention behind them. Additionally, they, along with the closely ranked no. five Salisbury University, are the only representatives of the newly ordained Coast to Coast Athletic Conference (C2C) in the Top 25. CNU’s 12-1 record before the ordered termination of the 2020 campaign has led them to the public’s watchful eye, and as expected, the surveillance is deserved. To begin last season, the Captains went on a 12 game winning streak with significant victories over then no. six ranked Emory University and formerly no. one ranked Texas Lutheran. It should also be noted that the Captains never officially played a home game last season. The women competed in four road games in which they all came out on top, and they participated in the Grand Slam Triangle Classic and Leadoff Classic where all games were held on neutral grounds. The Captains won all of their nine neutral site games but one.
Statistically, CNU has a few players returning that should generate similar results this season. Junior third basewoman Kaitlyn Hasty is one, for example. Hasty was a surefire score for the Captains last season. In the 13 games, Hasty maintained a batting average of .488 and a slugging percentage of .829, 9 R, a team leading 20 H and 16 RBI and 4 HR in 41 AB. Needless to say, Hasty, who ordinarily batted fourth in the lineup, will look to expand those numbers over the timespan of an entire season’s length in 2021.
CNU’s Baseball and Softball programs are no strangers to success, and they have the chips in place to make a run for postseason success, safety permitting, in 2021. Men’s Baseball opens their season with a back-to-back doubleheader against Roanoke College on Feb. 28, and Women’s Softball gets their season started with a two game clash against Virginia Wesleyan University on Feb. 27.
All statistics, dates and information retrieved from: