Thursday, February 24, 2011

Road trip complete

A 5 game road trip came to an end on Tuesday.  We went 3-2 for the stretch, which is solid, but not great.  4-1 would have been better, and 5-0 is what it really should have been.

We began the trip in Panama City, FL against perennial Northern Division power Shelton State.  They were what we've come to expect out of Bobby Sprowl's teams.  They have great arms and can really pitch, and if you make mistakes, their hitters will capitalize.  Fortunately, O'Neal didn't make many mistakes and was able to keep their bats quiet while our own offense managed to post a big day.  Robert Shipman started a great weekend off by blasting 2 homers, one of which was a monster-shot over the scoreboard in right-center.  Trey Williamon and the rest of the guys had solid showings too.  Game 2 was also against Shelton, and despite allowing a run in each of the first 3 innings, we kept the offense rolling on the strength of another homer from Ship and took the game 8-3.

That's about where we started to hiccup.  We played Wallace Dothan next, and a shaky outing from trace McDaniel put us in a bit of a hole.  Trace had trouble locating his fastball, which is uncharacteristic of him, but it enabled Wallace to sit on his breaking stuff, and if they know what's coming, they're going to hit it.  Monte Reese followed Trace, and though he wasn't getting some of the calls, he walked 3 and gave up 5 runs on 5 hits in an inning and a third.  To be fair, he had 2 guys struck out but didn't get the call, and each followed up by hitting a rocket for extra bases.  We made a late surge, but got short circuited when Dustin Averett got gunned down at the plate on perfect throw from Dothan's left fielder.  Oh yeah, Ship blasted 2 more bombs in this game to cap off a 5 dinger weekend.  Awesome.

Gulf Coast was our opponent in the final weekend game, and they were, as advertised, a solid JUCO team.  We got on top of them in the 3rd, then jumped out to a good lead in the 5th by scoring 5 runs.  Martin Castro was solid, and kept them guessing for most of the ballgame.  Up 7-3 in the bottom of the sixth with 2 on and 2 out however, we hung a first pitch breaking ball to GC's lead off hitter, who hit what is probably the first homer of his career to bring Gulf Coast within 1.  In the 8th, we had a chance to stop them with Alder on the bump, but he wasn't as sharp, and Bryce got a bad read on a ball in center field, and GC managed to get 2 across to beat us 8-7.  Classic example of letting a game get away from you that you should have sewn up. 

The road trip ended in Gadsden on a high note.  Daniel Szathmary got his first start, and he was outstanding, going 7 complete innings, allowing 3 runs on 5 hits while striking out 4 and walking none.  On the offensive side of the ball, everyone hit.  We pounded out 19 hits and scored 15 runs.  Williamon hit his first homer and drove in 6 on the day while Vince smashed an opposite field dinger to drive in 3 of his own.  All in all, a great way to end a road trip.  Now we've got to take on Middle Georgia at home, play another week of non-conference matchups, and as Varny so famously stated last year "Conference is here, boys."

Monday, February 14, 2011

"Maybe you ought to practice that..."

What made me laugh, and caused the title of this posting, is that after we failed on a bunt attempt for strike 1 some guy in the stands (I presume from the other team) shouts out "Maybe you oughta practice that..."  Shout might be a strong word.  'Muttered loudly enough for everyone to hear' is probably a better way to put it.  The reason I had to laugh is because of the absurdity of the statement.  Bunting is an everyday part of our batting practice schedule.  In the fall we spend extended amounts of time working on each bunt scenario and require that 90% of our attempts be successful.  What it amounts to is that before we move on, we have to succeed on 180 of about 200 attempts...  And we do.  Almost every time.  Of course, there's really no reason to justify anything we do.  The 40 wins per year we've managed to average per yer speak more to that than anything I can blog about.  I think that's pretty solid, even if Johnny Baseball in the crowd finds it necessary to be a jackass when a kid trying (as hard as he can) to do a job fails.  Still, I find it amusing when the bleacher creatures just can't help but to show how foolish and ignorant they really are about the game and what goes into it. 

Without a doubt it was coming from a dad who is upset that things aren't going so well for little Johnny and he just couldn't help himself.  At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter because what goes on outside of the fences has nothing to do with the game, and if those guys really knew jack, they'd be in the sport, not watching it.  What gets under my skin though is when anyone makes light of the effort that our players (or anyone else's) pour into this game.  They work too hard and sacrifice too much for that crap.  Every player that has ever put on a Pirate uniform has worked too hard for that crap. 


We're 11 games into the season now, and I think we're right on the verge of where we need to be. We took 3 of 4 this past weekend against quality ballclubs, and our bats seemed to wake up a little. Mike O'Neal finally got a win on his record after throwing a great game against Georgia Perimeter Thursday. The offense managed to pound out 13 runs in the contest and looked more like the dangerous team we know we are.

Jeff State came out Friday with a good looking starting arm and kept us at bay for most of the game, but we got hot late and made a pretty good run... The only problem was that we threw the ball all over the ballpark and cost ourselves the game. 4 throwing errors, a fielding mistake, and a missed opportunity for some runs in the first innings sabotaged what would have been a good victory.

Fortunately, we put a pair of good games together yesterday to sweep ABAC in a doubleheader. Bryce Dial and Robert Shipman got us going with back-to-back homers, and we never really looked back. Martin Castro came on to throw a shutout in game two, and we played one of the more well-rounded games we've had this year.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A week in the books

I'm always amazed at how fast the season goes once it starts.  We're a week into the year today and we've got 4 games in the books already.  Our opening series with East Georgia was solid.  We took our time in the season opener offensively, but we were able to really pour it on late to turn a good ballgame into a lopsided 12-6 win.  Dustin Averett made alot of noise in his first collegiate game, hitting the ball all over - and out of - the ballpark.  Mike O'Neal also started with a bang, tossing 6 2/3 innings and dominating despite a few defensive mistakes behind him. 

Game two, the diet Pirates showed up...  At least in the batter's box.  Taking a look at the game film it was easy to see that a wide strikezone was problematic for us and contributed to our futility on offense, but our inability to adjust was really our downfall.  We took quite a few strikeouts looking, and though you could argue that many were not really in the zone, the umpire was consistent in calling them in the spot we were getting rung up in.  Zach Helewski made his debut, and he was adequate in his first outing.  I say adequate because he pitched well enough to win the game if we'd have given him some runs, but he really didn't throw as well as he is capable of.  He walked quite a few and never really got his stuff working the way he wanted.  Fortunately, you know you're going to have a winner when a guy keeps you in the ballgame even when he doesn't have his stuff working that day.  Everyone wins when they are sharp...  The best win when they have nothing to attack you with.

We woke up coming into the 3rd game of the weekend and blasted out 15 runs against only 5.  Trace McDaniel threw a good game in his debut, and just about every hitter we sent up there collected a couple of hits.  It was a good demonstration of what we're capable of when we get things going.  As a young team, we know there are going to be some hiccups along the way, but you really want to see your club show signs of their potential early, and that's what we did in the final game of the opening series.