Losing March Madness – Croup’s Corner

Written By Josh Croup, Sports Columnist

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Along with millions of others across the country, I had Michigan State winning my NCAA March Madness bracket.

Well, that’s March.

I have a deep love-hate relationship with the month of March for reasons beyond the roller coaster that the basketball tournament takes us all on every year.

I imagine the Point Park softball and baseball teams do as well.

This month hasn’t been pretty. It’s been ugly at times and frustrating at others.

There are reasons for optimism, and I’m generally an optimist.

During March, however, as soon as one team in my bracket loses, I turn to pessimistic thinking.

All of that research and debating over one team or another was for nothing. A special shout-out to the No. 11 seeds in this year’s tournament.

I’ll go back to thinking optimistically on the diamond.

The baseball team currently sits at 9-10 with a 4-4 conference record. The Pioneer bats came to life in their most recent victory, an 11-1 win over Penn State-Greater Allegheny.

Sophomore catcher Christ Hernandez has stepped into the No. 3-hole of the batting order – a spot typically occupied by junior right fielder Stefan Mrkonja, who is out for the year with a hamstring injury.

He went 3-5 with three RBIs in the win after only hitting .237 entering the game. That’s a bat that needs to continue producing.

Ahead of him in the order, Demetrius Moorer and Shane Conley combined for a 2-4 night with three walks, three RBIs and six runs between the two outfielders.

There were some really rough patches throughout the first 18 games for this team. Errors cost the Pioneers games, injuries have benched key players and the bats have only hit .277 through 19 games.

We can be optimistic that the bats will produce consistently, the pitching staff will hold its own and the gloves won’t cost the team wins.

Now, bear with me for the softball team.

They’re 10 games below .500, entering the week at 3-13. Point Park also has an even 1-1 conference record after splitting its first conference series at Cincinnati Christian over the weekend.

3-13 isn’t pretty. How meaningful is the win-loss column? It’s almost meaningless, unless you’re looking at the conference win-loss column.

Seriously, 3-13 isn’t fun, even if 14 of those games don’t matter in terms of the conference standings.

“Wait, so starting 3-13 isn’t the end of the world?”

No. No, it isn’t.

In the grand scheme of things, the conference record is what matters. Nothing else. All bets are off when the conference tournament rolls around.

This team was a No. 2 seed in last year’s tournament and was bounced on day one. A team could have a miserable record in the regular season and turn things around in the conference tournament.

This is a young team. Three of nine hitters and one of three pitchers from last year are back. It’s a different team that played a difficult schedule to start the year.

They’re a work in progress. Playing well in the conference is the main focus right now. The Pioneers split a doubleheader at Cincinnati Christian over the weekend in their first conference series.

They lost the first game 1-0 and won the second 2-0, totaling four hits and no errors in each game.

Ashley Iagnemma’s near-perfect game one performance was spoiled by a goose egg on the Point Park scoreboard. The pitcher gave up one run on two hits, striking out six and walking none.

Hannah Harley tossed a three-hit shutout in game two, striking out six and walking one in the process. She picked up her first win of the season after an 0-6 start.

Point Park’s next conference game is Thursday night against Carlow.

Clearly, losing isn’t fun. Whether it’s losing someone close to you, a non-conference road game or your office bracket pool, losing sucks.

Hang in there, everybody. The madness of March is almost over. The team you picked to win it all may have already been eliminated, but now you can sit back and just enjoy the tournament.

As for the baseball and softball teams, now is the time to think optimistically and start racking up conference wins.

If they can’t produce a positive conference record, hopefully they’ll break some brackets during April’s conference tournament.