BURLINGTON – Harvard’s batters understand that being more aggressive and attacking strikes earlier in counts could be beneficial.
Actually executing that approach has proven difficult for the slumping Hornets, who now haven’t had a hit in 15 innings.
Harvard followed up being no-hit by Richmond-Burton pitcher Mike Kaska on Thursday by becoming a perfect game victim to Burlington Central’s Jake Schutta Monday in a 9-0 Big Northern Conference East Division loss.
The closest Harvard (4-5 overall, 2-3 BNC East) came to ending the hitless streak was Justin Nolen’s bouncing ground ball in the second inning. Rockets third baseman Cody Schuver grabbed it and beat Nolen in a bang-bang play at first base.
Harvard struck out 13 times and could not get a ball out of the infield against Schutta (2-0).
“We just had some bad at-bats and we’re seeing too many good pitches at the plate, bad approaches in the batter’s box,” Nolen said. “We’re going away from what we’re good at, starting to get out of our good habits and creating some bad ones.”
Just last Wednesday, the Hornets had seven hits and beat Johnsburg, 4-2, in a nonconference game. The fifth inning of that game was Harvard last got a hit.
“It’s pretty much pitchers hitting their spots and these guys have to change their approach a little bit and get something going,” Harvard coach Donnie Nolen said. “They take a lot of pitches, but they’re taking strikes too. They’re talking amongst themselves to try to find what’s going on and it should be an easy fix – swing the bat. Taking pitches and getting one swing doesn’t do any good.”
Burlington (8-4, 3-1) got five RBIs from third baseman Cody Schuver, who hit a two-run home run in the third and a three-run double in the fourth.
Rockets coach Kyle Nelson said Schutta normally is a pitcher who thrives on throwing to contact, but he proved impossible to hit on Monday. He struck out the last six Hornets.
“I was attacking the zone and hitting my spots,” Schutta said. “Once I got ahead in the count I threw off-speed pitches to get them swinging. I was aware [of the perfect game]. It was lingering in my head, I knew I had to focus on the mitt and execute the pitches.”
Schutta threw 83 pitches, 56 of which were strikes.
“I was calling pitches and felt like I was playing a video game,” Nelson said. “You call a pitch and it goes right where you want it to. He gets like that sometimes where he doesn’t miss spots. He kept the ball low and threw three pitches and spotted them all.”
Harvard was frustrated at knowing what it should do, but not being able to do it.
“We’re not making good contact,” Hornets left fielder Logan Streit said. “We have to take more reps and get better focus. We’ll hit the cages a lot.”
Harvard has two days off before hosting Burlington in a BNC East rematch. Donnie Nolen thought the Hornets would spend a lot of time in the cages, particularly if wet weather dictates they stay indoors.
“We really didn’t change anything [from Thursday],” Justin Nolen said. “We had a couple days off, we should have been working on it. We got back to game time and went back to those bad habits. It’s something we’re going to have to work on in the next couple days, being aggressive and changing your whole outlook.”