A streaking University of Jamestown baseball team opens Jack Brown Stadium on Thursday seeking its talented offense to pop.
Pitching arms and defensive leather has carried the Jimmies to five consecutive wins heading into its home opener hosting 20-win Briar Cliff University, but as the weather warms so too should UJ's bats.
First pitch for Thursday's Great Plains Athletic Conference doubleheader between the Jimmies (18-10, 5-3 GPAC) and the Chargers (20-5, 5-3) is scheduled for 2 p.m.
"We know we have the talent to put up better offensive numbers than we have," said University of Jamestown head baseball coach Tom Hager. "We're trying to feel through it, trying to get things clicking. We feel like we've done some good things, especially over the last week or so, and just want to build on that."
Jamestown, sitting fourth in the GPAC standings behind Doane (17-8-1, 8-0), 20th-ranked Concordia (20-3, 7-1), and the Chargers, currently ranks eighth in the conference in batting average (.268) and seventh in runs scored per game (5.21).
The Jimmies have won seven of their last 10 games, batting .248 and driving in 48 runs in 284 at-bats, but have only connected for four home runs in that span, two of which came in last Saturday's 7-3 extra-innings victory at Northwestern College, Iowa.
Junior left-handed power bat Luke Shekeryk and sophomore third baseman Kendall Yackley both hit solo shots against Northwestern, while Yackley went on to pitch a seven-inning, three-hit shutout over the Red Raiders in game 2.
Shekeryk got off to a hot March, belting three homers in one day in wins over Culver-Stockton College in Missouri on March 6, but UJ's leader in homers (7) has batted only 4-for-27 (.148) with two solo shots over his last 11 contests.
Athletes swinging hot sticks over UJ's last four include senior second baseman Brice Foster (.436, 3 doubles, 5 RBIs) and senior shortstop Grant Okawa (.333, 5 walks).
Junior left fielder Tayler Cullen is 4-for-9 over UJ's last three and has produced a team-leading 20 RBIs. Junior first baseman Dylan Dudley, another left-handed power candidate who last homered March 6, just went 2-for-3 with a walk and a pair of runs scored from the cleanup spot in UJ's 7-0 victory over Northwestern with Yackley on the hill.
Senior first baseman Lincoln Trujillo (.322), Okawa (.362), Foster (.351), Dudley (.316), and Cullen (.313) are leading UJ's offense through 28 games.
"We know we're going to play good defense and we know we're going to pitch it, we're just looking to make some improvements at the plate and I am impressed with some of the adjustments that we've made over the last week or two," Hager said. "We know Briar Cliff's a good team. We respect their coaches and know that they've had a really good season so far, so we're looking forward to the challenge of playing them."
The Jimmies are currently second in the GPAC in both team ERA (3.52) and fielding percentage (.962). Senior starting pitcher Dru Fitz (4-0) is enjoying a solid season to this point, piling up 43 strikeouts and two shutouts in seven starts with an ERA of 2.31.
Thursday's games at Jack Brown could turn into pitchers' duels with a forecasted south wind blowing in at 20-30 mph and gusting to 40.
The Jimmies are likely to see Briar Cliff's ace, right-hander Jacob Wesselmann (4-1, 3.35 ERA). Wesselmann was a hard-luck loser last Saturday facing Mount Marty, striking out seven in a 2-1 loss to the Lancers after pitching all seven frames.
The Chargers are batting .273 as a team and are averaging north of seven runs scored per game (7.44). Briar Cliff has lost four of its last six.
"It's gonna be fun to finally get a chance to play a home game at Jack Brown Stadium," Hager said. "We want to enjoy that, but we need to play Jimmie baseball and when we do that good things happen."