Something is different about the Southeastern Louisiana baseball team this year, and not in a good way.
Typically, a Matt Riser offense is known as an efficient machine at the plate, tough to strike out and capable of moving runners around the bases quickly.
But that isn’t what the Lions are seeing this year — especially not the past month.
With about five weeks left in the regular season, Southeastern is hitting .238 — quite a drop from the last year, when the Lions hit .289 as a team, and the year before, when they hit .303.
Their total hits are down to 278 this season from 350 the same time last spring.
Even the strikeouts are coming at a faster pace, up to 7.81 per game from 5.87 at the end of last year.
The Lions simply aren’t seeing the ball the way they have in the past. Riser, in his fourth season at Southeastern, believes there’s still time to remedy the issue before the postseason.
But with each passing day, the frustration grows deeper.
“We’ve got ourselves in this offensive slump, and we’re not approaching it the right way to get out of it,” Riser said. “Like we talked about (Wednesday night): There’s a brick wall we have to get on the other side of. Our plan right now — there isn’t one. We have to make sure there’s a plan to get on the other side of that wall.”
Wednesday night may have been the worst of Southeastern’s struggles, prompting Riser to claim the slump “can’t get any worse.”
Southeastern struck out a season high 15 times in a 9-2 loss at Louisiana-Lafayette — tied for most since Riser took over in 2014.
Riser estimated after the game that 12 of those punchouts were on pitches outside of the strike zone.
Even center fielder Jacob Seward, the second-toughest hitter to strikeout in the nation last year, has seen a considerable dropoff. Seward went from striking out once every 26 at-bats last year to once every 8.81 at-bats this year.
Riser said it’s going to take a different approach, in which players stick to a plan — lay off certain pitches, swing at others.
“We just have to get that swagger back, that demeanor back in the box that we’re determined to get on base, determined to get a hit at all times,” Seward said. “Stay focused, stay relaxed. I’m doing it too. It’s not just the other guys. I’m swinging at bad pitches. I think it’s just a frustration thing.”
Riser said the slump can be broken in time for the postseason, but it’ll take mental fortitude and preparation from key players.
They need players like Seward and Brennan Breaud to get on base more and then the big hitters like Webb Bobo, Taylor Schwaner, Carson Crites and Ryan Byers to get them in.
One of the primary objectives Seward and Breaud have is to draw walks — yet they have combined for 33 all year.
Schwaner has been largely unaffected by the slump; he is by far the team's best hitter.
Bobo, on the other hand, dropped from 42 RBIs last year to just two so far in 2017.
“It’s carrying over to defense and base running,” Schwaner said. “Hitting is contagious and once we start hitting, the whole team is going to start hitting. It’s time to go now, and I think we’re going to get it right.”