I’ll be the first to tell you that I hadn’t ever heard of Delaware baseball, and it wasn’t much of a stretch to assume they weren’t rich in baseball tradition (my research proves this correct). Then again, I wouldn’t know much about their football team either, were it not for Joe Flacco. The joke is on me though, because the Blue Hens can play a little bit of baseball.
You could make a compelling argument that it’s been a tale of three seasons for Delaware. Struggling initially, hitting their stride midway through the season, and then finishing on a torrid pace en route to a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
In standard Northern team fashion, the Blue Hens had a brutal start to the season losing six of their first eight games against an array of Power 5 baseball teams. Kansas State, Pittsburgh and Ohio State took turns drubbing the Blue Hens.
Yet, a glimmer of hope shone through the clouds as we see Delaware defeated a salty Kentucky squad that made major noise in the SEC this season. From what I can tell, they didn’t hit their stride until about mid-March when they swept Penn State.
After the above-mentioned sweep, we see series wins over William & Mary (who is a regular in the postseason), and College of Charleston (shoutout 2014 Super Regional Opponent). Not to mention the Blue Hens stole a game from NC State on the road. I’d highlight other notable wins, but there really isn’t much to commend. LaSalle, Hofstra, and Towson likely aren’t striking fear into any worthwhile opponents.
My speculation is that moving Ron Marianaccio from closer to starter proved crucial to this team making a run—a 1.85 ERA, and greater than one strikeout/inning line looks pretty good. That’s essentially where the buck stops on the mound though, as the newly appointed closer, Burk Fitzpatrick, is average at best and he’s their leader from the bullpen (see 3.22 ERA, lots of walks, and allower of many extra base hits).
To close the season, Delaware didn’t flinch in the conference tournament and swept their way through to a championship, averaging 9.5 runs per game during that four game stretch. Make no mistake, the strength of the Blue Hens is their hitting, as they sport a .313 team batting average, and have a more than competent ace to take the bump on Friday. Their 57 home runs might translate well to Dan Law Field, the .411 on base percentage tells me they’re patient/opportunistic hitters, and it’s likely their lineup will sport .300+ batting averages up/down.
But, Texas Tech is No. 5 for a reason. While we share similar stellar stats, let’s be honest - we have a better bullpen, better players, better coaching, and home field advantage. Any scenario in which we burn relevant bullpen arms will be disappointing - and I fully expect us to ravage the Delaware pitching when the starter runs out of gas.