Parallels exist between Hawks, Phillies
Sometimes, university baseball can eerily mirror the goings-on of the major leagues. The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks and the Philadelphia Phillies are two such teams that share a few uncanny idiosyncrasies.
Coming into the Major League Baseball (MLB) season, there was no team more highly touted than the Phillies.
They had the best pitching staff in baseball, led by reigning Cy Young winner Roy Halladay and prized free agent Cliff Lee.
The Phillies also boasted former Cy Young winner Roy Oswalt and former World Series most valuable player, Cole Hamels.
Many people thought that their pitching was to be one of the best rotations seen in the majors in years, comparing them to the Oakland A’s now-famous trio of Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, or the Braves’ own trio of John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.
But there were concerns raised, and those concerns proved to be valid. Philadelphia lacked offensive consistency, and players like Jimmy Rollins were past their prime, while perennial-home-run hitter Ryan Howard continued to strikeout too much.
These issues continued for most of the season but the Phillies still managed to win a major league-best 102 games while running away with the National League East division title mainly behind the arms of their starting pitchers.
But a microcosm of the Phillies struggles came in game five of their first-round series against the St. Louis Cardinals this past Friday.
They sent Halladay to the mound and could not ask for more out of him. He pitched eight innings allowing only one run.
Then the Phillies’ struggles came into play as they were totally shut down by Cardinals’ ace Chris Carpenter, who pitched a complete game shutout.
Just like that, the Phillies promising season that saw them as a legitimate World Series contender came to an end.
Laurier’s baseball team shares some similarities with the Phillies.
Those who follow the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) know that coming into the 2011 season, the Golden Hawks were one of the favoured teams to win the entire league and move on to nationals.
Like the Phillies, they have strong pitching, with a legitimate staff ace in the form of Brett Van Pelt. The rest of their rotation is also impressive, with the likes of first-year Jordan Patruska and veteran Jack Malone.
Like the Phillies, they have home field advantage throughout the playoffs, as Laurier will host the OUA championships at Bechtel Park in Waterloo this upcoming weekend.
But unfortunately, also like the Phillies, they have offensive limitations and are at times unable to score runs.
The Golden Hawks do have offensive weapons in players like Ryan Panas and freshman standout Darnell Duckett, but the team is not able to generate runs when they need them most.
On a game-by-game basis, the Golden Hawks often leave runners on base and don’t provide the necessary run support for their starter. Then when they the team is down to its final out, the hitters are incapable of finding the run required.
The Phillies were the same. Game five was a prime example of this, as they were down by only a run in the bottom of the ninth inning, and with some of their franchise’s best offensive weapons up at the plate, they were unable to score a single run, with Ryan Howard being the final out of the Phillies season.
While hopefully the baseball gods give the Golden Hawks different treatment, the Phillies are now left scratching their heads and are about to embark on an off-season full of questions and potential changes.
Laurier is not going to finish with the most wins in the OUA and they will not be playing a best-of-five series in the playoffs, as the tournament format is double-elimination.
But the Hawks will face a similar problem that the Phillies did in their brief post-wseason stint.
Laurier will get good starting pitching and will limit their opponent’s offence; they’ve done so all season. The concern is if they can capitalize on their strong pitching and win low scoring games, requiring the clutch hits when the opportunity comes.
The Phillies were unable to do so, but the Hawks may just have the necessary tools to pull it off.