By Atara Shields
The Ryerson Rams baseball team packed up their equipment for the last time this season after being knocked out of the playoffs by the last place Waterloo Warriors on Friday.
In their 6-3 loss, leadoff man Jesse Fishbaum stepped up in a big way and went five-for-five and stole home. In his final Rams pitching appearance, veteran Caleb King pitched seven innings and did not allow an earned run.
“[King] looked exactly like he does every game,” Fishbaum said. “I’d say [he] is the most underrated pitcher in the OUA. He really fills up the strike zone, doesn’t walk anyone and gives no one a free pass.”
The Rams season-long defensive struggles came to a head in their brief playoff run. They committed five errors, helping Waterloo score three of their six runs. It was a performance that put the final nail in their fifth season as a program.
What went wrong in 2017
Their final game was a blueprint for how the season mostly went for the Rams – starting pitching took them deep, Jesse Fishbaum was stellar and the defence made a lot of errors.
“Our defence wasn’t up to par,” said Rams head coach Ben Rich.
That might be putting it lightly. Ryerson committed a league-high 41 errors this season, not really the column they thought they would top coming into the season having filled holes in their infield. They made at least one error in each of their 16 regular season matchups, except for the lone expectation in a game versus the University of Toronto.
“I know that all the infielders are going to put in a lot of effort this off season so that come next year those will really be cut down in half,” said Fishbaum. “There is no doubt in my mind that it will happen.”
Leadoff hitter and the Rams’ usual designated hitter, Fishbaum led the team in almost every category. In 38 plate appearances, he posted a .316 regular season batting average, recording 12 hits including a double and one of the team’s three home runs. He also drew six walks, led the team in stolen bases with five and had a perfect fielding percentage when playing in deep right.
“He was very solid last year, but he made some adjustments to his swing that led to increased success,” said Rich. “It was terrific having him at the top of the lineup in particular because of his speed. He was always a threat to cause havoc on the basepaths.”
And he will be back next year, ready to make waves in the 2018 season as a junior.
Best regular season win
The potential strength of their pitching, offence and defence was showcased in Ryerson’s Sept. 24 games against Western, giving a glimpse into what the team could accomplish when playing at their best.
Ryerson sent the Western Mustangs home with their tails between their legs that day. For the first time in their five-season history, the Rams beat the two-time OUA champions, also known as Rich’s former team with whom he won three championships while making three all-star appearances. They won that doubleheader with a combined score of 11-2. Starting pitchers Quinn Cumming and Kevin MacDonald pitched seven dominant innings each. The offence came to life behind Fishbaum who went three for four with a homerun, two runs and two stolen bases.
“We played two really good ball games and I was really surprised we couldn’t put more of those together the rest of the season,” Fishbaum said. “If we put in the work this off-season and show we’re hungry, I’m confident that only positive things will happen next year.”
Why the future is bright
The Rams are graduating six strong veterans, including the consistent arms of starting pitchers King and Cumming along with centrefielder Jared Armstrong, who is known for his Kevin Pillar-esque catches. But they are in no way leaving the cupboard bare. They still have the reliable arm of Jeremais Sucre, who pitched two complete games for the Rams.
In the lineup, they have promise in rookies Anthony Fera, Phil Seguin and Aidan Dolan, as well as plenty of seasoned bats. Behind their pitching rotation, they have a field full of defencemen who have demonstrated the ability to make tough plays, despite the high number of errors.