Rainy weather has kept the UNO baseball team from practicing at Maestri Field during this week, but it hasn’t prevented Ron Maestri from delivering a consistent message to the team.
“We need to shore up our defense,” Maestri said. “It killed us in our last series. We had too many errors in critical times. When you play good defense, you give yourself a chance to win.”
The Privateers (6-10, 0-3 in the Southland Conference) committed seven errors while being swept in last week’s three-game series against Sam Houston State, and hope to improve on their fielding for their weekend series against Stephen F. Austin, which begins 6 p.m. Friday.
UNO enters Friday’s game with 30 errors — second most in the SLC — and Maestri said that he’s been encouraging the team to focus more on their fundamentals.
“It’s really surprised me, because we work on our fielding a lot,” Maestri said. “It is early, but that’s no excuse. We have to turn that around. We’ve been taking a lot of ground balls this week, and we hope that improvement shows as early as this weekend.”
While Maestri’s main focus will be how well UNO’s defense plays this weekend, the Privateers should be able to lean on their offense, as they face a struggling Lumberjacks pitching staff.
SFA (5-13, 0-3) enters Friday ranked last in the SLC in ERA (6.24), runs allowed (127) and walks allowed (96), which should give the Privateers an opportunity to score early and not have to lean on their defense as much.
“They have struggled a bit as of late, but we can’t expect to win just because a team has been down recently,” Maestri said. “If we come out and play the way we are supposed to, we’ll give ourselves a chance.”
One of the players the Privateers have been able to lean on to kick-start their offense this season has been outfielder Ryan Calloway. The junior, who transferred to UNO this year from Alabama Southern Community College, has 10 hits in the last four games and has been a force for the Privateers at the leadoff spot.
He enters Friday hitting .344 with a team-high 12 runs and ranks 12th in the SLC (among players with at least 35 at-bats) with a .429 on-base percentage.
“He’s done a great job,” Maestri said. “He can do a lot of things for us. With him and (outfielder) Chaz Boyer, we have two guys at the top of the order that can really run. Having that threat really helps us offensively.”
The Privateers kick off their series against Stephen F. Austin on Friday at Maestri Field for 6 p.m.