FORT WAYNE – In Kip McWilliams’ six seasons as baseball coach at Indiana Tech, he’d never seen anything like the two days in late April when his Warriors were shut out in three consecutive games.
In the past, it had been his Tech teams that had shut down the opposition. Last season, Indiana Tech swept four games from Siena Heights 1-0, 1-0, 1-0 and 10-0. But twice on April 26, and then the first game of a doubleheader on April 27, Tech was blanked by Davenport, 6-0, 3-0 and 1-0.
That was a rough weekend for me, said McWilliams, whose team finally ended a 31-inning scoreless streak with a pair of runs in the fourth inning of a 6-4 second-game loss.
And yet the slumbering bats proved to be a reminder that enabled Indiana Tech to return to its offensive philosophy this season – patience.
Less than a week after dropping four straight, Tech faced the same Davenport team – same Davenport pitcher who struck out 11 in the 6-0 loss – in an 8-7 first-round victory of the WHAC tournament, which the Warriors won. The WHAC championship gave Indiana Tech an automatic berth into the NAIA tournament, which begins today in Montgomery, Ala., where the No. 4 Warriors (31-16) play No. 5 Mt. Vernon Nazarene (Ohio) at noon.
I think we got overanxious, McWilliams said of the series against Davenport. Being our last time at home, I think our guys were trying to maybe do too much at the plate; maybe attack the pitch too much rather than let the pitch come to them. I think that first game of the four-game series, we struck out 13 times. It was ridiculous. That’s where we had to bring our guys back on board after that series. We looked over the numbers and said, Fellas, this is not us.’
Led by Justin Kalusa’s .382 batting average and .467 on base percentage, Indiana Tech has a .396 on base percentage as a team – nearly 70 points higher than its opponents.
It’s the walks – averaging more than four per game – that has made the difference.
That’s one thing that we’ve focused a lot on this year differently than what we have in the years past offensively, and that’s kind of hunting the fastball; kind of getting counts in our favor, McWilliams said. We are getting a lot more walks. Last year we had a great year, but we struck out way too many times, so as a head coach I went back and was thinking what can we do differently as a coaching staff to get away from all those strikeouts. We came with a good offensive mental approach at the plate from Day 1, and fall ball kind of helped us out with that.