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Author: Cole Thompson

On the Bump – February 22, 2012

Hey everyone, and welcome back to the Mardi Gras edition of On the Bump. We have the whole week off of school for Mardi Gras break, so it is already a great week in my books. In this edition of the blog, I will talk about our tough three-game series at Trinity and discuss our progress through eight games as we prepare for our first conference series this upcoming weekend.

We started the mid-week series with a doubleheader on Tuesday. We woke up early on Tuesday morning at our hotel and headed over to Trinity for an early morning practice. We typically practice at the other team’s field the night before the first game when we play on the road, but a power outage on the Trinity campus on Monday night did not allow us to use their facilities. It was helpful to get out there on their field and see how the field plays (wind conditions, the way the ball bounces on the field, dimensions, etc.).

Game one began on a tough note for the Gents as we went 1-2-3 at the plate in the first inning. On top of that, their leadoff hitter started the bottom of the first inning by smacking a home run over the left field wall. However, Kyle Morton countered in the top of the second inning for us with a home run of his own to tie the game at 1. It was a seven-inning game, so we knew we had to strike early and put the pressure on them. Unfortunately, Trinity carried a 4-3 lead into the top of the seventh. They brought in their ace to close the game. He was a great pitcher, as his 26 strikeouts in 16 innings prior to our series indicated. He retired the first two hitters of the inning, but with our backs against the wall, Tyler Clakley crushed a ball into deep right and tied the game for us. However, in the bottom of the seventh, Trinity hit another home run to record the walk-off win by a score of 6-4. I was proud of our guys for battling all game, but I would be lying if I said we weren’t disappointed. Trinity is a top 20 team in the national rankings and it would have been nice to win that first game. We played fairly well on defense, but our pitching struggled a little at times and our hitting could have been better with two outs. Lance Nugent and Taylor Henry pitched in the game for us. They didn’t have their best stuff, but they both did a great job of battling and keeping us in the game. As a pitcher, our job is to give our team a chance to win. They both kept us in the game, and that is really all we can ask. At the plate, Kyle Morton stayed hot, going 3 for 4 with three RBI. Also, Jemari James went 2 for 3. Our defense was highlighted by several great plays in centerfield by Dan Lazarou.

The nightcap of the doubleheader started well for us, as we jumped out to a 2-0 lead after three innings behind RBI’s from Tyler Clakley and Kyle Morton and solid pitching from Chase Clarke. Trinity struck for four runs in the bottom of the fourth, off a mixture of hits, errors, walks, and a hit by pitch. This is exactly why our coaches preach to our defense and pitchers about not allowing free baserunners. Yes, Trinity had a few key hits, but we gave them a few runs also. On top of that, Trinity scored four more runs via the long ball in the top of the fifth to take an 8-2 lead. The score stayed at 8-2 until the top of the eighth, when we scratched out two runs via a two-run home run by “The Moose” (Kyle Morton). On the defensive side of the ball, Trey Guccione entered the game to pitch in the bottom of the fifth and held the Tigers scoreless throughout the back half of the game. He did a great job of keeping the ball down and keeping the aggressive Trinity hitters down. We entered the top of the ninth trailing 8-4, but the inning started with a hit by pitch followed by followed by four consecutive singles to pull us within one. A fielder’s choice knotted the game at eight and we were back in business. Trinity got a runner to third with no outs to start the bottom of the ninth, but Trey Guccione navigated his way out of the inning without allowing the winning run to score. Guccione was aided by great defensive placement. Coach Pat Jolley slides the defense around and aligns them based on the hitter. Jolley did a great job of sliding a few guys into the right spots to make key plays in clutch situations. We went down 1-2-3 in the top of the tenth, and then Trinity hit yet another home run in the bottom of the tenth to win via the walk off once again 10-8. I was really proud of our team for once again for battling against adversity and coming back in the late innings. However, we were really flat between innings 4-7. We looked kind of shell shocked after losing the lead, and we lost all of our momentum. On the mound, Chase Clarke and Trey Guccione threw well. Chase has thrown great for us in his first two outings and he has been a great addition to the team after joining us right before the spring semester. At the plate, Ryan Gasporra went 2 for 5, Tyler Clakley went 4 for 5 with two doubles, Kyle Morton went 3 for 5 with a home run and five RBI, and Jeff Schaffert went 2 for 5. It was extremely disappointing to lose both games of the doubleheader on walk-off home runs. We proved that we could hang with a top 20 team, but we do not want to settle for “good.” We want to be a great team, and, in order to be great, we need to learn how to finish close games.

We finished up the series with a single game on Wednesday. I started on the mound for us, as we looked to salvage a game in the series from the Tigers. They scored an unearned in the top of the first to take a 1-0 lead. It stayed that way until the top of the third, when Ryan Gasporra dropped a two-run bomb over the right field to put us ahead 2-1. In the bottom of the third I had a three-pitch inning, which is something I hadn’t seen since I was about 12 years old. We advanced the score to 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth when Dan Lazarou scored on a Craig Littleman double. Trinity scratched out another unearned run in the fourth to bring the score to 3-2. In the bottom of the sixth, a walk, error, single, walk knotted the score at 3 with runners on first and second and no outs. Peyton Stover replaced me on the mound at this point, and he induced a ground ball double play on the first batter he faced. However, a two-out RBI single gave them a 4-3 lead. In the top of the seventh, Craig Littleman led off with a double. Two batters later Ryan Gasporra cranked another two- run homer, a no-doubter, over the right field wall to give us a 5-4 lead. Tyler Clakley followed that with a double, and then a Kyle Morton RBI single extended the lead to 6-4. Trinity scored another unearned run in the eighth to draw closer 6-5. However, freshman Taylor Henry closed out the game for us, striking out the final batter to seal the victory. I was really proud of Henry for bouncing back after giving up a walk off home run the previous day and battling to finish a tough game and earn the save. Also, freshman Peyton Stover threw well in relief, earning the victory. It will really help our pitching staff down to stretch after all these freshmen learn to fight through tough situations on the mound. It is fun to watch the young guys grow up fast by being successful in clutch situations. On the downside, we had five errors in the field. However, we proved that we can win a game against a quality opponent with five errors. I think this fact shows that we can compete with anyone, but we just need to cut down on the mistakes. Jeff Schaffert, Kyle Morton, and Tyler Clakley each had multi-hit games. Also, Craig Littleman was clutch out of the 9 hole, going 3 for 4 with two doubles.

The Trinity series was great for our team because we had the opportunity to face off against a perennial Division III powerhouse. They were a great team that played flawless defense, strong pitching, and quality hitters. We played far from our potential, but we competed, and each game was decided in the last inning. As I said earlier, we just need to focus on closing out games and finishing strong. We are right on the brink of being a “great” team, we just need to iron out a few issues and be more consistent.

We returned from San Antonio and arrived back in Shreveport around 3:00 AM on Thursday morning. However, we live the life of a student-athlete, and many of our guys had to be at their 8:20 AM class five hours later. Fortunately, the coaching staff gave us Thursday off. I saw many of our guys in the trainer’s room on Thursday though. Let’s just say that 8-hour back rides don’t feel great on the body or the back after a hard fought three game series. However, long bus rides are a lot more fun after you win the last game of the series.

We practiced Friday, and then the coaching staff gave us the weekend off to enjoy a little bit of our Mardi Gras break. We hit the field on Monday and our pitching staff had our smoothest PFP’s I had seen since my freshman year. The intensity and focus was high, and we made nearly every single play in the 30-minute PFP session. On Tuesday, we scrimmaged, and each pitcher threw an inning. Also, we had former Centenary pitchers and current Los Angeles Angels minor league pitchers Dakota Robinson and Stephen Tromblee out at the field to throw an inning to prepare for Spring Training. It is great to have the professional guys out there because it motivates our guys to get to their level eventually.

This week we are preparing to play our first conference series. McMurry University out of Abilene, Texas, will visit Shreveport for a three-game series. We don’t know a lot about them, but they have played several quality teams to start their season as well. We know they will bring their best, because both teams want to start the conference season strong. Stop by next week to hear how our three-game series with McMurry went. Until next week, Go Gents!

On the Bump – February 14, 2012

Hello Gents nation and welcome back to another edition of “On the Bump.” This week I will talk about our two games with Texas College, our week of practice, and our road trip to San Antonio.

When I last left off, we were on the verge of our February 7 doubleheader with Texas College. Despite an early morning rainstorm, we were able to start our first game at 2 PM. We started off a little sluggishly. I started the game and threw well. I would like to have thrown a little better, but I pitched myself out of a few situations and gave our team a chance to win the game. Nic Parrott came in after me and threw a solid four innings of relief, holding the Steers to three hits while walking none. Nic did a great job of not allowing free base runners and pounding the strike zone. Offensively, we started slow, but one single at bat changed the flow of the game. Tyler Clakley led off the 4th inning for us. Up to this point, our offense had been held in check by the Texas College pitcher. However, Clakley started off the inning with a quality at-bat. He fouled pitches off, took a few pitches for balls, and then he laced a single up the middle to start the inning off. That single at-bat sparked our offense and helped lead us to a 4-1 victory in game one. Ryan Gasporra, Kyle Morton, and Jemari James each had two hits for us. Another key play that flew under many people’s radars was the baserunning of Kennen Cobb. Kennen pinch ran for Jemari at 2nd base late in the game with two outs when we were up 3-1. The pitcher threw the pitch in the dirt, and Kennen did a great job of reading the down angle of the ball and took off for 3rd base. He stole 3rd base, and, on top of that, the catcher sailed the throw into left field, allowing Cobb to score. Kennen did a great job of creating that run for us with his aggressive and smart baserunning.

Peyton Stover started game two of the doubleheader for us. Stover pitched well in his first career start, giving us 2.1 solid innings. Our offense helped ease the nerves a little by spotting him an 8-0 lead after two innings. The “Monstars” (our batting lineup’s nickname) came through big time. Matt Creamer, Ryan Gasporra, Tyler Clakley, Kyle Morton, and Jeff Schaffert started off the game with a bang, and our offense never looked back. On the mound, Kamden Haglund, Trey Guccione, Marc Martinez, Trey Lavespere, and Ryan Stevens worked well out of the bullpen, allowing only three hits over the final 6.1 innings. They were successful as a group because they pounded the strike zone and competed. Kyle Morton led the way for us at the plate, going 4 for 5 with a double. Jeff Schaffert went 2 for 4 with four RBI, including a two-run homer. Also, Matt Creamer went 2 for 6 with a double. Another stat that went unnoticed by many was Dan Lazarou’s on base percentage on Tuesday. Dan did not record a hit, however he was hit by four pitches and received a walk. Even though it doesn’t show in his batting average, Dan did a great job of getting on base and creating scoring opportunities for our team.

We received a well-deserved day off on Wednesday. Although we didn’t have practice, I still saw a lot of our guys around the weight room, batting cages, and the field. It is really encouraging to see guys working to improve their game even though it is technically an off day. Thursday and Friday’s practices were short and sweet due to more rain in the Shreveport area. I will say that we have had more rain this January/February than we have gotten in my first two years here. However, we are getting pretty good at putting the tarp on the field.

We had a five-inning scrimmage on Saturday to prepare for Trinity University. Saturday was a windy, cold day and not exactly ideal baseball weather. I was proud of our guys for showing up to play and not letting the weather affect their abilities. We played one of our better scrimmages of the year in my opinion. Our defense was solid, our hitters worked the count, and our pitchers threw strikes. I thought it was a very productive day given the conditions we had to deal with.

Sunday was another off day for us as the coaching staff wanted us to focus on our academics because we are missing several days of school this week for our trip to San Antonio. Unfortunately, we can only take twenty-five guys to San Antonio with us. As you know, our roster has thirty-six guys. I know the coaches had a tough time narrowing down the roster, and I feel for them as well. I feel for the guys who didn’t get to travel. Those guys work hard every day in practice, and we have been through a lot of ups and downs this year as a team. However, our lineup consists of mostly upperclassmen. As a result, some freshmen do not have the opportunity to travel with us. I hope that these guys understand that this is not an insult or slap in the face. I know that if these guys keep working hard they will definitely make an impact in our program over the next few years.

We left Monday around noon for San Antonio. We started off by watching Moneyball. For those of you who haven’t seen it, I suggest you go buy or rent it right now. It is a great baseball film, and it is also up for several Academy Awards. After that we played several intense games of Mafia. I don’t really know how to explain the game in a few sentences, so I will just sum it up as being an intense game of Heads Up 7 Up and Clue combined. It was an eight-hour bus ride to San Antonio, which is by no means a short trip. However, I kind of enjoy the long rides. It gives you a chance to just chill with the team and shoot the breeze, while at the same time knowing it is a “business trip.” We arrived at Trinity University on Monday night and played some catch and ran several sprints.

On this trip I am rooming with freshman Taylor Henry and sophomore Trey Lavespere. They are quite the characters and have provided plenty of laughs so far. Our Monday night at the hotel was definitely highlighted by an hour freestyle session with “T-Biscuit” (Trey Lavespere), “Big Hen” (Taylor Henry), “C-Dirty” (myself), and “Gooch Nasty” (Trey Guccione).

Stop by next week to hear how our three-game series with Trinity went. They are a nationally ranked team, and I believe it will be a great test for our team. Until next week, Go Gents.

On the Bump – February 6, 2012

Hello fans and welcome back to “On the Bump.” It was a long and tiring weekend, but there is no rest for the weary as we have a doubleheader with Texas College on Tuesday. This week we will take a quick look into our week of preparation for Hendrix College, and I will give a quick rundown of each of our three games against the Warriors. Please bear with me on the game recaps, because I do not have access to the box scores yet; so, I apologize if I leave out any guys who had good statistical games.

Much like last week, the middle of the week was mixed with classic southern thunderstorms. While it was tough to have full practices because of the rain, we did get pretty good at putting the tarp on the field. It is a luxury to have a nice, big tarp for our infield because it allows us to pull it off when the rain is over and the infield is ready to go for any drills we need to go over. The outfield takes a little longer to drain, but it is nice to be able to use the infield an hour after a storm rolls through. While pitchers and infielders work in the infield, our outfielders will go hit in the batting cages. Last year we upgraded our batting cages, and they are very nice. We have five cages that our hitters can use, and the flooring is the synthetic field turf that you see on many football fields these days. I have not seen any of the fields or facilities in our new conference, but I would imagine we have some of the nicer facilities in the conference. We take pride in the nice things we have, and we work hard to take care of the field, cages, and our equipment.

The team planned to show up to the field at 8:30 on Saturday morning for our noon doubleheader; however, an early morning storm forced the start time to be pushed back to 3 PM. I had the opportunity to start game 1 for our team. It was an honor to start on Opening Day because we had a couple of guys who were worthy. Unfortunately, I went out there with a little too much adrenaline and uncharacteristically left the ball up in the strike zone. To Hendrix’s credit, their hitters did a good job of hitting the mistakes I left up in the zone. I threw strikes and competed, but I know that I could have done better. Nic Parrott replaced me in the 4th inning and helped me out of a jam. At that point, we were down 4-2 and still in the game. However, an 11-run 5th inning broke open the game for Hendrix. It was just one of those innings in which nothing went right for us, and everything went right for them. If you play sports long enough, you will be on both ends of an inning like this at some point in your life. Unfortunately, it was their day. We used 5 different pitchers in the inning, and Hendrix handled each one. While we did give up a few free passes (HBP, walk, error), the Hendrix hitters did a good job of battling and putting the ball in play. While people who were at the game may say that many of their hits were “bloopers” or “lucky,” you have to remember that good things happen when a hitter battles and puts the ball in play. On a positive note, freshman Peyton Stover came out of the bullpen and threw well for us in his first collegiate appearance. On the offensive side, I was proud of our guys. They managed to battle back from the large deficit and cut their lead to 7 late in the game. However, we gave up a few late runs, and we lost 21-12. Tyler Clakley led our offense by going 4 for 5 with 3 RBI. Matt Creamer, Ryan Gasporra, Jemari James, and Kyle Morton each scored twice. I know we had some other great offensive performances, but I cannot remember all the numbers without a box score in front of me.

After the marathon game 1, we had to finish the day by playing the back end of the doubleheader 30 minutes after the end of the first game. Senior Lance Nugent took the mound for us. This is Lance’s first season to play for us as he transferred in from LSU-Shreveport last Christmas. I know he was excited to get out there and compete in a real game instead of pitching to our guys in an intersquad scrimmage as he did for the past year. Lance went out and filled up the strike zone, competed, and put our team in position to win the game. The turning point in the game occurred when we were down 2-1 in the 3rd inning. Hendrix had a runner at 3rd with 1 out and a chance to extend their lead. They hit a fly ball to right field, which appeared deep enough to be a sacrifice fly. However, our right fielder Tyler Clakley had other ideas. He caught the ball for the second out of the inning and fired a strike to home plate to gun down the Hendrix runner attempting to score from third base. That single play gave our team momentum and helped carry us to victory. Another key play occurred when Jeff Schaffert smashed a ball to left field in the 4th inning. I believe the ball would have been a home run on a normal day, but a stiff wind knocked the ball down into the corner. The play resulted in an RBI double for Jeff, and it gave us a lead that we would not relinquish. After 5.1 solid innings from Nugent, freshman Taylor Henry (a local product from Airline High School in Bossier City) took the mound and closed out the game for us. He recorded 4 out of his 5 outs via strike out and did a great job of competing. It was great to see a young guy get out there and close the game for us in his first college baseball game. Offensively, Matt Creamer was a spark plug out of the leadoff spot, going 2 for 4 and generating several scoring opportunities. Also, freshman Scotty Debrouwer had a clutch hit in the 6th inning for us that delivered a run and extended our lead to 5-3. I was really proud of our guys for coming back and winning the 2nd game of the doubleheader after struggling in game 1.

Sunday’s game was a big game for us. The coaches have always told us, “It’s all about Sunday.” This means that on Sunday you either have the chance to sweep a team (win all 3 games in the series), win the series (win 2 out of 3), or avoid being swept. Since we split the games on Saturday, Sunday’s game would determine the winner of the series. We sent Chase Clarke to the mound to start game 3 of the series. Chase is a local product from Evangel High School, and it was also his first collegiate game. He did a great job, pitching 4 shutout innings and setting a solid tone for us. Jeff Schaffert got our offense going in the first inning with a 2-run double to right center that scored Ryan Gasporra and Kyle Morton. Nic Parrott pitched a gritty 1.2 innings after Chase, and, after that, he handed the ball off to Taylor Henry with 2 outs in the 6th inning. Henry proceeded to close out the game, pitching the final 3.1 innings and earning his second save of the weekend. Offensively, Kyle Morton and Dan Lazarou each went 2-3 at the plate.

It was a solid first weekend for us. Its tough to complain after winning a series, but I know we can play better. Give Hendrix credit though. They were a very solid team, and I think some of us underestimated their abilities going into the weekend. They were well coached and very disciplined at the plate. They battled hard, and it was a great first series. It was a good measuring stick to see where we stand ability wise to open the season. I know that over the next few weeks our pitching, hitting, and defense will continue to improve, and, as a result, we will become a better ballclub. As I said earlier, I was very proud of our team for battling back to win the last 2 games of the series after the first game did not go our way. It would have been easy to mail it in and hang our heads after the first game, but instead we stepped up our game and battled.

We now turn our attention to a doubleheader against Texas College on Tuesday. After Tuesday, we will have played 5 games in 4 days. Needless to say, we will have some exhausted players, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We love getting out there and competing, and we have the depth to be able to rest a few guys if needed. I will be excited to see how our pitching staff bounces back from a tough game one on Saturday. You always have to go out there with confidence and think that you will be successful. I believe our young guys are learning that on the fly, but each opportunity is a chance to improve and build your knowledge and success.

Thanks for stopping by and come back next week to hear how our doubleheader with Texas College went. Go Gents!

On the Bump – February 1, 2012

Well it’s official. It’s game week. With only three days until Opening Day, the energy around the facilities is electric. This week I will review practices, introduce you to our pitchers and catchers, and talk about our first opponent, Hendrix College.

The week started on a negative note. Mother nature sent a fierce storm to Shreveport that hung around for all of last Tuesday and Wednesday. Every second on the field is crucial because we have a pretty young team. The best way to become a better player is repetition, and it is tough to get those “reps” when a classic southern thunderstorm rolls into town. Luckily, the weather cleared up for the back half of the week and we had solid practices on Thursday.

One part of practice that has greatly improved is our Pitchers Fielding Practice (PFP). In the fall, PFP’s were disastrous. In this exercise, the pitcher simulates throwing a pitch, and a coach standing at home plate hits a ground ball for him (the pitcher) to field and throw to first or second base depending on the situation. While it doesn’t sound too difficult, we are only 60 feet away, and the ball sneaks up on you sometimes. Coach Jolley, master of hitting PFP’s, likes to challenge us and force us to stay down and not let the ball get past us. In the fall, we did a poor job of fielding the ball cleanly and “sticking our nose in it.” By that I mean not being scared of the ball. Pitchers need to be tough and not afraid to have the ball hop off of their leg, knee, chest, or even face. We have done a much better job lately of taking pride in our PFP’s and fielding our position. Our pitching coach, Coach Stephens, really emphasizes that PFP’s are extremely important. If you can’t field your position, you are a liability on defense, and the coaching staff may not be able to trust having you on the mound in a game.

We had our last “off-season” intersquads on Friday and Saturday. On Friday, all of our relievers threw an inning apiece. On Saturday, our 4 starting pitchers threw 4 innings apiece, and, after that, the relievers each threw another inning. The coaching staff threw our “bullpen” (relief pitchers) on back-to-back days to see who is durable and can pitch multiple times a weekend. Most of our games are three-game weekend series, so it is important to see which pitchers we can rely on to throw an inning the first game, be ready to bounce back the next day, and still help us win the final game of the series out of the bullpen. On Friday, our hitters stole the show and swung the bats well. However, our defense was a little sloppy and needed to be better. On Saturday, our pitching looked fantastic, and our defense did a great job. After Saturdays’ scrimmage, I believe our team is ready. I feel confident in our hitting, pitching, and defense.

Let’s meet your 2012 Centenary Gents pitchers and catchers. First, I will introduce you to our three catchers. Behind the plate we have Senior Jeff Schaffert, Junior Ryan Gasporra, and Freshman Zach Price. Jeff is a 5th-year senior and the leader of our team. All of the guys look up to him for leadership and advice. He excels defensively and has the tools to play at the next level. “Gaspo” is a JUCO transfer from California, and he brings a powerful bat to our lineup. He will be in our lineup even if he is not catching. He does provide a quality backup to Jeff, and, as a pitcher, I am grateful that we have two great catchers. Zach Price is a freshman from Texas who has made great strides since arriving at Centenary. His defense has really improved, and our two older catchers have done a great job of passing on their knowledge to a younger guy.

Now let’s meet the pitching staff. First off, I need to let y’all in on a little secret and tradition that the pitching staff carries on. We have our own “pitchers-only” club dubbed the “BBB” (Bad Body Bullpen). This nickname is derived from a popular baseball book, Bullpen Gospels. The “Founding Fathers” of the BBB are Trey Lavespere, Trey Guccione, Kelby Langston, and myself. The “BBB” has few requirements, the main prerequisite being that you are a “pitcher-only.” As many of you know, we have several two-way players (pitchers who also play positions), and these guys are unfortunately not allowed to join our illustrious club. We are a tightly knit group that comes out ready to compete everyday. Our starting pitchers for now are Lance Nugent, Nic Parrott, Taylor Henry, and myself. I say “for now” because our rotation can change at any time. If a guy struggles, our coaching staff is not afraid to give someone else a chance to prove himself as a starter. While it seems cutthroat, I love it because it gives our team the best chance to win every day and forces our starters to bring their “A-game” each week or else they could lose their job. Out of the bullpen, we have Trey Lavespere, Trey Guccione, Peyton Stover, Kamden Haglund, Chase Clarke, Grady Flournoy, Matt Posey, Dustin Dalton, and Ryan Stevens. I am confident that our bullpen will do a great job because we have several guys who fit several roles. We have a “submarine” (sidearm) pitcher, crafty lefties, and righties that can get the ball up there with a little bit of velocity. I don’t want to talk about each individual pitcher too much and give up their scouting report, but come on out to Shehee Stadium this weekend to see the “BBB” and the rest of the Gents in action.

Now let’s talk a little bit about our first series of the year. We open with Hendrix College. They were picked to finish second in their half of their conference, so we cannot take them lightly. Since this is our first season at the Division 3 level, I am not familiar with most of our opponents. However, I would venture to guess that many teams will give us their best shot because we were a Division 1 program last season. As for me, I am excited to get out on the mound and give our team a chance to win. I only worry about what I can control as a pitcher. On Saturday, I can only control filling up the strike zone and keeping the ball down in the zone. After that, I have faith in our defense to handle the ball and in our offense to score runs. On the flip side, I believe our hitters/defense have faith in our pitchers to keep us in the game and not give up free bases (walks and hit by pitches). I am really excited to see all of our young guys get their feet wet and experience college baseball. It will be a weekend filled with firsts – first hit, first run, first RBI. But it will also be filled with character tests such as first failure, first strikeout, or first time to give up a hit. I am excited to see how our young guys handle the adversity and bounce back and compete.

It is only Monday night, but Saturday is all I can think about. There is nothing quite like Opening Day. The smell of the fresh cut grass, the music ringing inside the ballpark, and the promise that surrounds a new season are things that get a baseball player pumped up. Do I think our team will play to its full potential this weekend? I hope so, but in reality probably not. But that is what makes baseball great. When a teammate struggles, you have another guy who has the opportunity to pick you up and turn your failure into a team success. Baseball is a crazy game. If you think about it, you are considered a great hitter if your batting average is over .300. Do you realize that means that 7 out of 10 of your at-bats are deemed a failure? That is why baseball forces you to be mentally strong. Failure is imminent, but it is how you bounce back from your struggles that truly define you as a ballplayer and a person in life.

Thanks for stopping by this week to check up on the Gents. I hope to see all of you out at Shehee Stadium at noon on Saturday and at 1 PM on Sunday for our series with Hendrix College.

On the Bump – January 24, 2012

Hey everyone and welcome back to another week of “On the Bump”. We had a great week of practice and finished the week with an intrasquad on Saturday. In this week’s installment of the blog, I will give you an inside look at our prior week of practice, introduce you to the 2012 Gents outfield, and explain why I believe our lineup will be one of the best in Division 3 baseball this season.
We had a great week of practice and as a result we played a crisp, smooth, and polished intrasquad. I think guys are really beginning to see how competitive things get when it comes to playing time, and everyone is stepping up their game in hopes of cracking the lineup.

One thing that really stood out to me this past week was our depth. At the beginning of the year, I was concerned about how well our freshmen class would adapt to the speed of the college game. In the fall, you could tell the transition was tough for many of our new guys. However, this past week I saw guys making plays and decisions that were “college-type” plays instead of the “freshman-level” mistakes they made in the fall. Our coaching staff has divided our players into “Team 1″, “Team 2″, and “Team 3″ the past week. “Team 1″ is made up of our tentative starters, while “Team 2″ and “Team 3″ challenge “Team 1″ each day at practice. Our starting lineup is made up of predominantly returners (guys on the team last year) and Junior College transfers. Needless to say, “Team 1″ easily handled the other 2 teams in our scrimmages throughout the fall. Early in the week, Coach Stephens challenged the younger guys to compete and take somebody’s spot. Needless to say, “Team 2″ and “Team 3″ rose to the occasion and defeated “Team 1″ a couple of times this week in our scrimmages. I do not really think our guys stepped up their physical ability, but instead they stepped up their effort, mental game, and baseball IQ. They took pride in their game and as a result they had a great week of practice. I believe our team really turned a corner this week because when “Team 2″ and “Team 3″ play well, it pushes “Team 1″ to step up their game a notch and compete as well. We really played a quality week of baseball and the difference between our practices in early October and mid-January are night and day. I really believe our program has a great future in front of us because our freshmen will continue to grow physically, mentally, and improve their skill set as well.

A few guys that really played well in practice this week were William Fulton, Dakota Brown, Scotty Debrouwer, and Erasmo Valdez. Fulton absolutely took over a scrimmage in the middle of the week by swinging the bat well and playing great defense in left field. He made a catch while diving head first into our bullpen after running about 60 feet to track down the ball. While this may not impress you, take into consideration that the guy had knee surgery in October. It was great to see him out there showing his potential and finally healthy. In the infield, Brown, Debrouwer, and Valdez all played solid defense and looked crisp. You never know who will slump or be injured, so it is really encouraging to see our young freshmen stepping up and taking their game to a new level.

Now, let’s meet the 2012 Centenary Gents outfield. Tyler Clakley has played a great right field all fall for us. He has a very strong arm from the outfield and he has swung the bat well since day 1 in August. We were fortunate to have him transfer in this season from Tyler Junior College. Senior Dan Lazarou returns in center field. Dan saw time in all 3 outfield positions last season, and his experience will be key to our outfield defense’s success. He is 6’6 with good speed, so all the pitchers and myself love having a centerfielder that can cover the spacious outfield of Shehee Stadium. Left field is a little bit of an unknown right now. The starter at that position will likely depend on the health of some our guys come Opening Day, but I am not concerned. I believe that any guy that we put out there will be a great addition to our lineup. Ryan Gasporra and Nick Gobert have both played well in left field since we started up. The rest of our outfield consists of Jemari James, Nic Parrott, Gilbert Boudreaux, Ben Williams, William Fulton, Jake Moore, Timmy Chhor, and Connor McPherson. Jemari will likely fill our Designated Hitter slot, as he has swung a powerful bat all year. Nic Parrott is a 2-way player (pitcher and position player) that will likely be called upon for his speed and defense. Boudreaux transferred in at semester, and he has shown he is capable of earning playing time this season although only being with the program for 2 weeks so far. Ben Williams is a strong freshman that squatted over 500 pounds in the fall and has made great strides as a hitter. As I stated earlier, Fulton just recovered from knee surgery, but he is already making an impact in practice and turning heads. Jake Moore is our resident “string bean” (he is really skinny), but he has really improved his game as well. You can tell he takes pride in getting better each day and he is very coachable. He has earned some reps with “Team 1″ this year because of his ability to do whatever the team needs him to do. Timmy Chhor is our speedster from Carthage, Texas. An interesting fact about Timmy is that he can throw the ball well with either hand. Connor McPherson is new to the outfield, but he swung the bat well all fall. He had a knack for getting clutch hits in the fall, and as a result he is battling for playing time as well.

At the beginning I stated that I believe we will have one of the best lineups in Division 3 this season. While it is a bold claim, I firmly believe that our hitters will prove me right. Every scrimmage is a battle for our pitching staff. There are no easy outs in our starting lineup, and they all have the ability to hit the ball into the gaps for extra bases every time they step into the batter’s box. While it is a given that hitters will have their ups and downs, I believe our lineup is strong enough to pick each other up and help their teammates battle out of slumps. I can’t wait to see what our hitters do to opposing pitching when games start up this fall. Our lineup is so big that Ryan Gasporra decided to nickname our line-up the “Monstars” (in reference to the movie Space Jam). If you do not know who the “Monstars” are, do a quick Google images search. Basically, they are overgrown monsters that dominate basketball. The nickname is appropriate because I think our hitters have the ability to take over games and carry the team.

One thing that makes our lineup so strong is their work ethic. I was really proud of how hard our team worked in the weight room this off-season. We have a really strong team and that numbers our guys threw up on their max-out days for lifting were amazing. If you were to glance at the sheet, you would have thought you were reading the max lifts for squat and bench of a football team. The scary thing is that our team is very young. This means that these guys will only get stronger as they continue their baseball careers. Like I said earlier, the future for our program is bright.

One last thing I would like to mention is our team’s academic performance. Centenary is a fairly challenging institution. We were highlighted by Blake Bourgoyne and Jeff Schaffert earning a spot on the Dean’s List. Blake had a perfect 4.0 GPA, which is tough to do, yet alone in your first semester of college at Centenary. Also, both of these guys are pre-med students and are loaded with tough science courses. I believe they deserve special recognition for performing so well in the classroom given the difficulty of their workload. It’s not easy being a student-athlete, but I am glad our team is learning to take pride in their academics. For example, guys that made under a 2.0 GPA last semester don’t get to practice with the team on Mondays. Instead, they get to attend study hall. Our coaching staff has taken it upon themselves to ensure that we develop as men, students, and baseball players. Study hall is not a punishment, but rather a chance to re-prioritize your academics and improve your academics.

Opening Day is 11 days away and I know our guys are ready to get out there and compete. Check back next week to hear about another week of practice and to meet our 2012 pitchers and catchers. Go Gents!

On the Bump – January 18, 2012

Hello everyone and welcome back to another year of “On The Bump”. When last season finished, I was unsure if I would return to Centenary for my junior year. Over the summer I decided that Centenary was the best fit for me and I chose to return to Centenary for my last 2 years of school. I chose to return to Centenary because of the family atmosphere, coaching staff, and opportunities on the field this season. I had a fun summer in Seattle playing for the Kitsap Bluejackets, and I am glad I returned to Centenary to finish my collegiate career.

Our first game is February 4th against Hendrix College. Until then, I will give you an inside look into our program and give a brief outline of a week in the life of a Centenary baseball player. This week, I will cover the highlights of our fall semester, and preview the 2012 infielders. Next week (January 24) I will introduce you to the Gents outfield, and the week after that (January 31) I will preview our 2012 pitchers and catchers.

We have 37 players this year, including 4 that transferred in this semester. Our team is predominantly from Texas and Louisiana, but we have guys from all over the Western Hemisphere. We have guys from California to the Virgin Islands, and from Texas to Canada. Despite , our team has great chemistry and we have a lot of fun out on the field.

The majority of our coaching staff returned from last season, including head coach Mike Diaz, pitching coach Jason Stephens, and hitting guru Pat Jolley. We also added outfield/hitting coach Tim Ryan, who played for Centenary from 2004-2006. He has done a great job working with our outfielders and hitters.

Our fall highlights included a doubleheader scrimmage against LSU-Shreveport, a fall World Series, and the alumni game. In our scrimmage against LSU-S we lost 3-1 and 7-2. While we lost both games, it was a great measuring stick for our team and it was great to see all of the new guys in the program get out and compete against another team. Also, LSU-S is a great NAIA program. They finished in the top 5 in the NAIA rankings last season and ended their season with a trip to the NAIA World Series. Our fall World Series was fun because Coach Jolley coached one team while the other team was managed by Coach Ryan. It was pretty funny watching those two try to make trades before the game and set their lineups the exact way they wanted. In the end, Coach Jolley’s team swept the series 2 games to none. Alumni weekend is always one of the best weekends of the year because so many of the old players come back to participate in the golf tournament and baseball game during the weekend. I enjoy it because the alumni take a sincere interest in the well being of the team and they are always excited to see the program grow from the solid foundation they built while they played here. The current squad defeated the alumni 5-0 this year. The highlight of the game was definitely Ryan Gasporra’s home run that hit off of the top of the scoreboard in right-center field.

Now I will introduce you to the 2012 Centenary Gents infield. At first base we welcome back Kyle Morton, who has looked good swinging the bat this fall. He has also done a great job of helping freshmen Jon Wilson and Blake Bourgoyne learn the system at first base as well. In the middle infield we return Matt Creamer. He has played great defense all fall and he is really starting to swing the bat as well. Matt is the only guy left from my freshman recruiting class so you may see him get a lot of shout outs on here. Craig Littleman, a junior college (JUCO) transfer from Arizona has also looked good on the field this fall. Scotty Debrouwer, Kennen Cobb, Christian Sebastien, and Erasmo Valdez are all freshmen that are competing for time in the middle infield. The great thing is that each of these guys brings a specific skill set to the table. I am very confident that any of the guys would do great in whatever role they are asked to play. Sometimes a guy may be asked to come in and pinch-hit and lay down a sacrifice bunt. While this may seem insignificant, we will likely need the sacrifice at a key point in the game. At third base we return Marc Martinez. Marc has really stepped up his defense this year while continuing to swing a hot bat. Dakota Brown will also battle for playing time at third base and in the middle infield. Another good thing about all of our freshmen infielders is that the majority of them have strong enough arms to play 2nd, 3rd, or shortstop. This allows our coaching staff to be much more creative with the lineup, and also gives each guy a better chance to get in the game and help the team.

Thanks for stopping by and checking out the blog this week. Stop by next week to hear about our 2nd full week of practice as we continue to prepare for our February 4th game against Hendrix College. Go Gents!

Also, shout out to senior basketball player Maxx Nakwaasah. He eclipsed the 1,000 career points mark this past weekend, and on Monday he broke Robert Parish’s 40 year old school record for points in a single game. His 51 points broke Parish’s old record of 50. Parish was recently voted one of the top 50 NBA players of all-time, so it was a tremendous accomplishment.

-Cole Thompson

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