Rollins baseball was up for the first half of the season but now they're in trouble
Five outs into his Saturday start against Lynn, Brian Auerbach watched everything fall apart. It had been an up and down weekend for Rollins after a season that was up for weeks then down for the next two.
A moment after Auerbach tossed just his 11th pitch of the second inning Saturday, a grand slam was disappearing into the afternoon light of Boca Raton. In that nightmare of an inning, when seven Lynn players scored, the Tars’ starter would average less than two pitches per batter faced.
The Tars eventually recovered and scored eight runs, but in the slugfest that ended their doubleheader April 1, that unusually strong showing at the plate wasn’t enough. Rollins batters crushed 26 hits in the second and third games of the series — and came away with just one win out of three.
In the early goings of 2017, the Tars were shaping up to be a juggernaut. They won nine of their first 11 games then went on a four-game winning streak a week later.
But there were hints of weakness early on. Only one shutout win in their first 13 games showed some issues on the mound. Then, there was the shaky series against West Florida in which they won the first game 4-1 and then gave up 25 runs in back-to-back losses to the same team.
They kicked off St. Patrick’s Day weekend with a searing 12-3 loss to St. Leo that was a harbinger of even worse things to come. Their pitchers would strike out just three batters in nine innings, and right fielder Nick Breen managed to get picked off twice in the same game. In the previous 21 games, he had only been caught stealing once.
After the Tars gave the previously winless St. Leo Lions their first two SSC wins of the season, the floodgates opened. The Tars have lost seven of their last 10 games, putting them in desperate need of a righted ship with a critical stretch of Sunshine State Conference series on the horizon carrying them all the way to the start of May.
They haven’t faced any of those teams — Florida Southern, Nova Southeastern, Barry and Florida Tech — yet this season. They’re 18-13 right now, just 3-6 in conference play, and on the verge of playing two of the top three teams in the SSC in back-to-back series.
Florida Southern (25-6, 6-3) is their starting point, and a rare road game for the Tars so far.
If they can sweep the team with the SSC’s second best record, they’ll even out their season before hosting Nova.
That might be a tall order against Florida Southern of late. The Moccasins are on a 17-game win streak, including sweeping the last three conference opponents they’ve faced.
With their pitching seemingly in trouble, the Tars may need their bats to pull off an upset. As a whole, the Tars have shown they can compete on offense. The Tars’ bats have averaged .299 team-wide, more than 30 points higher than their opponents. They have nearly twice as many doubles and home runs as their opponents, and have smashed 12 triples while giving up only two.
Peter Nicoletto has led the Tars with a .354 average and seven home runs. He’s also slugging .701, by far the best on the team. He’s also the speediest, swiping 14 bases in 15 attempts.
The Tars will see how they fare on the road when the series sees its first pitch at 6 p.m. Friday, April 7, in Lakeland, followed by a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 8. After that, they return home for an unusual weekday series, hosting Nova at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 13, then a doubleheader at noon and 3 p.m. Friday, April 14.
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