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Sunday, Apr 21, 2019 at 6:00 pm

Syracuse Still Mystified by Changeup, Drop Series to ACC-Worst Pittsburgh

By Tom Russo

CitrusTV Softball Beat Reporter

“That’s a really good question.  If you could find an answer let me know.”

That was the response head coach Shannon Doepking gave when asked how she could get her team to finally successfully hit changeups. Syracuse (19-25, 8-10 Atlantic Coast) handed Pittsburgh (9-38, 4-14) its first series win of the season.

Even when facing the worst club in the ACC, Syracuse tallied a combined three hits over their past two games.  This came after the Orange exploded for ten runs on eight hits in the series opener Friday.

“Coach did mention how winning that first game by that much kinda wasn’t for the best for the rest of the weekend,” AJ Kaiser said.  “We just expected to have that outcome every single time we saw her and we just didn’t and we let her throw that changeup and get in our head.”

Kaiser ended up representing the entire Orange offense for the day, as she broke up Sarah Dawson’s no-hit bid with a solo homer to lead off the fifth inning.  It was one of two hits Syracuse could muster on Sunday.  The Orange only managed four baserunners in the entire game against the same pitcher they tagged for six runs on Friday.

“I think it’s just the same thing, we’re still working on the changeup,” Gianna Carideo said.  “I think it’s just us being aggressive, getting our hacks in, keep coming in with that mindset of being aggressive and attacking.  We just gotta swing.”

“We swung the bats on Friday, and today we did not swing the bats,” Doepking said.  “You usually hit the ball when you swing and you tend not to hit the ball when you stand up there and hold the bat.”

But not swinging was not the problem for Syracuse in the box score.  The Orange only struck out three times as a team, and all three were swinging strikeouts.  The problem was the team failed to make good contact on the changeup when they swung.

In the entire game, only five balls left the infield for Syracuse.  One was the Kaiser home run, which came on a fastball. The remaining four balls were three flyouts, one to each outfielder, and the only other Orange hit. Lailoni Mayfield’s leadoff single in the seventh skipped off the first base bag and into right.

“I think it’s in our heads. We just need to see it and get excited for it, not be afraid of it,” said Kaiser.  “See it and think ‘Oh it’s a changeup I’m gonna crush it’ versus thinking ‘oh it’s a changeup I’m gonna have to change my swing for it.’”

As for correcting the problem, this is where there has been no solution.

“I don’t know,” said Doepking.  “We have two arms going right now that are throwing hard and slow, and they’re seeing it and you would think that the more you see it the more we’d be able to adjust to it, and we’re not adjusting to it.  In practice, before games, we’re doing the same thing.”

Kaiser pointed to seeing the ball more in practice from Syracuse’s own staff as a way to try and help solve the team’s woes.

“Logan Paul, one of our pitchers, throws us a lot of fastballs and changeups pre-game, and I think we need to just mix more of that into practice too, just so we can get used to seeing it and not being afraid of a changeup,” said Kaiser.

“What we’re doing isn’t working right now,” said Doepking.  “That’s the piece we gotta figure out as a coaching staff.  Obviously what we’re doing isn’t working.  Logan’s been throwing to them, every single day throwing to them changeups, and we’re not very good at it.”

Syracuse has now lost five of their last six, and a common theme in those five losses has been struggling with the changeup, though this issue has plagued the Orange throughout the season.

Syracuse now has a quick turnaround to try and finally start figuring things out before playing a midweek doubleheader against Binghamton.  First pitch of game one against the Bearcats is scheduled for 3:00 p.m.

twrusso@syr.edu ǀ @TomRusso24