Raiders’ offensive firepower on display in Horizon League

FAIRBORN — Alex Sogard inherited a bunch of mashers when he became Wright State’s baseball coach after two years as an assistant in 2019. That team was the Horizon League’s equivalent of the 1976 Cincinnati Reds.

The Raiders had high draft choices — Peyton Burdick was taken in the third round and Seth Gray in the fourth — and set program records for home runs with 67 and total runs with 501, averaging 8.5 per game.

But the current Raiders can make opposing pitchers feel as if they’re facing a firing squad, too. They scored an astounding 88 runs in a four-game sweep of Purdue Fort Wayne last weekend and are among the national leaders in several offensive categories.

“We’ve got a couple of veteran guys who are really good hitters. Some of our younger guys are natural hitters, too, and they’re starting to get comfortable,” Sogard said.

“In our league, with the four-game weekend, it plays to our advantage because we have a lot more depth on the mound than maybe some of the other teams. But the guys have been swinging great.”

The Raiders are first in the country in runs per game at 10.3. Jackson State is second at 9.2, the only other team averaging more than nine.

They’re second in the nation in batting average at .327 and on-base percentage at .435 and fifth in home runs per game at 1.72.

That OBP mark is on pace to be the best in program history, topping the record set in 1983 and ’89 of .431.

“That’s our No. 1 goal. When I talk to the offense, I preach on-base percentage,” Sogard said.

The objective is to have a 1-to-1 ratio between strikeouts and reaching base via walks or getting hit by pitches.

Though they aren’t quite there, the Raiders have 241 of the former and 232 of the latter. Close enough.

“That’s tough to do, but that’s what makes us dangerous because we can steal basis. If we’re getting on base, we can make a lot of things happen,” he said.

Centerville product Quincy Hamilton, a two-time Horizon League batter of the week, is first in the nation in runs per game (1.56), while Tyler Black is fifth (1.34). Hamilton leads the conference in RBIs (38) and OBP (.513) and is second in homers (10).

Alec Sayre, the current HL batter of the week, has the top average (.440).

The Raiders are 22-10 overall and 21-3 in the league with eight regular-season games left. They went 25-4 in 2014 for their highest conference win total and best winning percentage, both of which are within reach.

They’ve topped 20 runs four times this season, including 29 Sunday (the school record of 32 was set in 2012). But they’re far from a one-dimensional team.

They have a trio of starters racking up strikeouts at an impressive clip, which is why they’re 11th in the nation in whiffs per nine innings at 10.9.

Jake Schrand (4-4, 4.31 ERA) has 73 K’s in 48 innings, Bradley Brehmer (6-2, 3.53) 64 in 51 and Austin Cline (6-1, 2.19) 65 in 49.1.

The Raiders are averaging 10 strikeouts per game. The program’s all-time best mark is 7.3.

“Schrand, our Friday night guy, is a power pitcher, so he gets a lot of swings and misses with his fastball,” Sogard said.

“Brehmer has developed his breaking pitches this offseason, and it’s really helped him. And Cline is just a veteran guy who knows how to pitch.”

The Raiders will host Milwaukee this weekend for their first home series in two months. Though Sogard said they haven’t had any positive tests for COVID-19, several foes have been forced to cancel games.

After a visit from Oakland on May 14-16, Wright State likely will host the four-team league tourney May 27-29 as the No. 1 seed.

“This team reminds me of the 2019 team a lot, but I think we have more depth on the mound. At the end of the day, you need that,” said Sogard, mindful that a thin pitching staff kept the Raiders from winning the tourney two years ago.

“I know our offense has been great, but, some days, it’s not going to be great. You need your pitching to step up.”

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