The UNO baseball team needed its bats to come to life.
After struggling to score in their previous four games, the Privateers got in the swing of things to prevent a series sweep against Middle Tennessee with an 8-2 win at Maestri Field on Sunday afternoon.
“They’re a really good team, but this shows how good we can be when we put some runs on the board,” coach Ron Maestri said. “We had 12 hits, and we need to do a better job with guys in scoring position, but that was a good win for us.”
After UNO (5-7) started the season by scoring three or more runs in six of its first seven games, the Privateers could only muster three runs in their previous four games, and they were outscored 17-3 in losses to the Blue Raiders on Friday and Saturday.
But the Privateers turned around their recent struggles by striking early Sunday, racking up four hits, two walks and five runs in the first inning as they sprinted to a 5-1 lead they would not relinquish.
“Scoring runs like this really helps, because our pitching staff is lights out,” said designated hitter Jonathan Coco, who had an RBI single in the first. “We really trust our pitchers, but whenever they don’t show up, we have to be there to pick them up, and we did a good job of that today.”
Despite UNO’s struggles at the plate recently, one of the major bright spots for the Privateers through their first 12 games has been Coco’s play. The senior was 5-for-10 during the three-game series against Middle Tennessee (7-2) and has been the most dependable bat in the lineup all season.
After Sunday’s win, Coco is the team leader in hits (18), he’s second in runs (seven) and he’s tied for the team lead in RBIs (six). He’s also the only Privateer who has a batting average above .300; he’s hitting .383.
“I’ve just been really working hard on hitting to the opposite field, like Coach Maestri tells us to do,” he said. “I’ve been focusing on staying consistent. I pride myself on my consistency, and my job is to just keep the lineup going and help put runs on the board.”
While Coco has been the early surprise, one of the early disappointments has been the lack of production from preseason All-Southland selection Sammy Capielano. The sophomore — who has been playing more second base of late, after starting all 49 games of his freshman season at shortstop — entered Sunday’s game with a .220 batting average, but he seemed to find his groove in the first inning, along with the rest of the Privateers.
Capielano smacked a single to right field to begin UNO’s five-run first and scored two batters later.
He finished 2-for-5 with an RBI.
“I think second (base) is his natural position, so we’ve tried to play him there a little more,” Maestri said. “He just has to stay with it, but I’m willing to bet, once we get a little warmer weather, he’ll start helping us a lot.”
Alex Smith (2-1) got the win by going six innings and allowing one unearned run on 10 hits and striking out six.
The Privateers host Sacred Heart at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.