A consistent inconsistency keeps the UD Flyers in their season-long funk of being good enough to contend, but just short of breaking through to win.
DAYTON — It is like watching a sad movie again and again and again for the University of Dayton baseball team — they know the beginning, they know the middle and they know the sad ending and wish they could change it.
But they can’t.
For most of the second half of this challenging season, the Flyers mostly have played competitive, solid and fundamentally sound baseball.
As former Cincinnati Reds manager Jack McKeon loved to say, “When Mr. Opportunity knocks, you open the day and say, ‘Come on in.’”
The Flyers, though, can’t seem to yank open the door.
Of their last eight losses, six have been by two runs or less, as it was Thursday afternoon at Woerner Field when they lost to Davidson, 5-3.
Just last weekend the 16-and-33 Flyers played Rhode Island, the first place team in the Atlantic 10. They gave up only five earned runs in the three-game series and lost all three — 6-4, 4-3 in 10 innings and 5-3.
“We’ve lost at least 15 games this season by giving up a lead in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings,” said pitching coach Ryne Romick.
The defeat Thursday was Exhibit A through Exhibit Z.
“They had the bases loaded with two outs in the first inning and get a two-run single,” said Romick. “They get runners on second and third with one out in the fourth and get a sacrifice fly and a two-out run-scoring single.
“We get runners on and don’t score,” Romick added.
The Flyers had a runner on third with one out in the first and had their one blunder of the game. Nick Ryan broke for home from third base on a ground ball to third and was thrown out.
They had runners on first and second with one out in the fifth and didn’t score.
Davidson pitcher Clark Beeker entered the game with a 7-and-3 record and a 1.91 earned run average. In the off-season the political science major is an intern for North Carolina Senator Richard Burr (R).
And he pitched as though the Woerner Field hill was Capitol Hill. There was no debate as he pitched a complete game.
Yes, he gave up nine hits and two walks, but when the Flyers hinted at a rally Beeker kept the door shut except in the fourth inning when UD catcher Cam Silva doubled home a run and scored on center fielder Mitch Coughlin’s single.
UD starter Charlie Dant (3-6) gave up four runs and seven hits over five innings, then Ben Polansky and Jason Johnson held Davidson to one run and two hits over the final four innings.
“We’ve lost eight games by one run and what you saw today is pretty consistent of what we’ve done all year,” said UD coach Tony Vittorio, whose breakfast cereal has tasted pretty bland this season.
“We’ve struggled a little bit with our pitching, but in a lot of games we’ve struggled through but we haven’t had much offensive production.”
Vittorio turned toward the Time-Warner scoreboard in left-center field, where it showed both the Flyers and Davidson had nine hits.
“You see we had nine hits on the board and all that, but it has been consistent the second half of the season and we didn’t see anything different today than we’ve seen consistently recently.”
Vittorio has no problems with his team’s work ethic and attitude and competitiveness.
“I’m proud of them because they are still working hard,” he said. “But what’s that quote? The game will make you feel small and we’re looking for guys who can play big when you feel small. We just haven’t played big enough.”
While there is no pot at the end of the rainbow because the Flyers are 5-and-14 in the Atlantic 10 (tied for last) and a league tournament appearance is a distant dream, Vittorio does see some white clouds.
“I’m proud of what a few of our freshmen have done this year,” he said. “We’ve received some good things from Connor Echols (infielder), Sam Sustersic (outfielder), Austin Cline (pitcher), Tyler Henry (pitcher) and Bailey Montoya (catcher). I wish our upper classmen could get it done more, but with our younger guys I’m looking forward to the future.”