Baseball team snaps long losing skid

Sophomore first baseman Kyle Hubbach rounds third and high fives head coach Mike Keehn after hitting a home run against Stillman Feb. 7. The Lions (19-17, 11-13 Gulf South Conference) snapped a nine game losing skid by defeating Spring Hill College, then sweeping Mississippi College April 9-10.

Before pulling out an 11-2 win against the Spring Hill Badgers April 6, the UNA baseball team suffered a nine-game losing streak dating back to March 19 in a loss to the West Alabama Tigers.

After starting the season with a 15-8 overall record, the Lions fell below .500, but now hope to be back on track with a weekend sweep against Mississippi College April 9-10. UNA holds a 19-17 record and is four games outside the Gulf South Conference tournament.

The losing skid was mostly from an inability to close out games, said UNA baseball coach Mike Keehn.

“We didn’t win close games and could not finish,” Keehn said. “Out of the nine losses, we only had two terrible games. The rest of the losses were just a couple of bad innings late.”

Although a goose egg appeared in the win column through the nine-game stretch, it seemed the offensive production from the Lions continued.

“We have guys who are hitting well obviously, like (Kevin) Hall and (Taylor) Hayes, who have been all year,” Keehn said. “So the talent and potential to win games is there. We just need more guys to step up.”

Hall, a senior outfielder, leads the team with a .426 batting average. Hayes, a senior who typically bats as a designated hitter, along with sophomore first baseman Kyle Hubbach, lead the Lions with 17 combined home runs.

Two more seniors, outfielders Dylan Calhoun and Heath Wood, are each batting above .350 as the first and second hitters in the usual batting order. Calhoun also owns a 20-game hitting streak for the Lions.

“We haven’t been playing bad baseball, but we have just not been able to find ways to win,” Calhoun said. “(Keehn) was just telling us that we need to start finding ways to finish games and win again.”

Hayes said beating Spring Hill and sweeping Mississippi College boosted the locker room’s morale.

“We are just trying to have positive attitude and be confident in the situations when we need to come through,” Hayes said. “I feel like all of that happened on Wednesday (against Spring Hill) for sure. We were all hitting the ball well as a team, and our pitching staff was lights out again,”

The GSC tournament consists of the top six teams at the end of the season based on conference record. UNA is in eighth place behind Lee University (23-14, 13-9). Alabama-Huntsville holds the No. 6 spot with a 15-9 GSC record.

The Lions hope to carry their newfound momentum into the rest of the season, as the margin for error is small, Hayes said.

“Well we have definitely made it hard on ourselves for sure,” he said. “But (making the tournament) is definitely possible. We just have to come to the ballpark with the right mindset and be ready to play. When we are all on the same page as a team, we are very hard to beat.”

Keehn said the team cannot afford to look ahead if they want to survive.

“You can’t think about (the playoffs) right now,” he said. “We can only take it one game at a time and not worry about it.”