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Archive for February, 2012

3 Days Away …….

Hello college baseball fans ! This has been a winter to remember. In my thirteen years as member of college baseabll circle (player/coach) I have never been able to participate in a game or practice outside the cozy confines of a gymnasium. I  know many of you will read that and shrug your shoulders asking yourself “What is the big deal?” I am pretty sure all of you have not coached in Pittsburgh!

Over the past two weeks, we had the honor of playing traditionally one of the top teams in NCAA Diviion II California University of PA (currently 3rd the Division II Atlantic region poll), holding 2 outdoor practices, and playing a 9 inning intrasquad. In my six years as a head coach we have never been this prepared to go to Florida.

The Cal game was one of the best experiences I have had as a head coach. First of all we had an opportunity to play a great opponent, in mid February, in a great facility (Consol Energy Park). We unfortunately lost the contest 9-1, but we played pretty well with it being our first time outside. Here is a full release to the game: http://www.psugaathletics.com/sports/bsb/2011-12/releases/20120220cqto9h

Our program departs for Vero Beach, FL on Friday with some great news. For a second consecutive year, we were picked to win our conference by all of the head coaches. I can’t stress enough to our young men that championships are not won in February, but who is playing the best baseball in early May.

That is it from me, I will try to get something out while we are in the sun !

On the Bump – February 28, 2012

Hello everyone and welcome back to the post-Mardi Gras break edition of “On the Bump”. We are slowly getting back into the flow of going to classes again after a relaxing week off from school. This week we will take a look at how we spent our spare time over the break, how we played in our 3 game series against McMurry, and briefly discuss our upcoming series with ASC opponent Hardin-Simmons.

It was great to have the past week off from school. The time off gave all of our guys a chance to rest, relax, and just focus on baseball for a week. We started practiced at 2:30 in the afternoon each day of the break, which is about 3 hours earlier than our practice time when school is in session. The 2:30 PM practice time was great because it gave us a chance to sleep in a little bit, and then the practices would finish around 6 at the latest. Another reason I loved the break was that the school cafeteria was closed; therefore the coaches fed us lunch and dinner each day. We typically had sandwiches for lunch, and for dinner we either ate somewhere in town or enjoyed burgers and hot dogs cooked and prepared by the coaching staff.

As for the actual practices, things went fairly smooth. You could definitely tell that the energy level was a little higher than normal. I think this is definitely attributed to the fact that we did not have classes and homework hanging over our heads. One thing that we need to improve on is our depth. Our second team struggled in our scrimmages with their defense a little bit. I know they are young, but you are only as good as your weakest link. If a starter is injured or unable to play, we need those guys to be able to jump into the lineup and produce immediately. Our pitchers did a better job of attacking the strike zone and challenging hitters in our midweek scrimmage. The number of walks likely decreased because Coach Stephens (our pitching coach) told us that we would have to run 10 poles for every walk we had.

We started off game 1 of the series on Friday night with Lance Nugent on the mound. I know that one of Lance’s coaches from back home passed away during the week, so this game had some extra meaning to it for Lance because he wanted to dedicate it to him. The game started off a little shaky as McMurry hit back-to-back doubles to start the game and take a 1-0 lead. In the top of the 2nd, McMurry struck for 2 unearned runs to extend their lead to 3-0. After the 2nd inning, Lance put the McMurry bats on lockdown. We snuck a run across in the bottom of the 2nd as Jemari James scored on a Nic Parrott double. Ryan Gasporra led off the bottom of the 3rd with a triple, and he scored a few pitches later on a wild pitch. Nugent threw a 1-2-3 top of the 4th, which swung more momentum in our direction, and we took the lead for good by scoring 3 runs in the bottom of the 4th. Singles by Marc Martinez and Nic Parrott allowed a ground-rule double by Matt Creamer to plate 1, and a RBI groundout by Ryan Gasporra gave us a 4-3 lead. Tyler Clakley singled home Creamer, and we never really looked back from that point. We tacked on another run in the bottom of the 8th on a Ryan Gasporra double to make it 6-3, and that was the final score. Nugent threw a complete game for us, while striking out 10. He could have folded after they scored 3 in the first 2 innings, but instead he battled and kept us in the game. At the plate, Matt Creamer, Ryan Gasporra, Tyler Clakley, Marc Martinez, and Nic Parrott had multi-hit games for us. I found several positives from the opening game with McMurry. One, Nic Parrott played very well in centerfield and at the plate while filling in for an injured player. Parrott did not get many “reps” with the starters throughout the fall, as he was one of our better pitchers. However, he did an excellent job of filling in for a player when we needed him. As I said earlier, we are only as good as our weakest link. In this case, Parrott came through clutch when we needed him. He could have used excuses or been discouraged by not practicing much with the starters, but he fought hard and earned himself a spot and he took advantage of the opportunity. Another thing I enjoyed was Lance Nugent’s performance on the mound. Lance is a senior pitcher for us, but this is his first year to play for Centenary. He played at 2 Junior Colleges before playing at LSU-Shreveport, and eventually joining us at Centenary. He has been through some adversity in his personal life the past year, including the passing of his old high school coach in the past week. However, he has always shown up with a great attitude and a team first mentality. On Friday night, he proved to everyone in attendance and who follows Centenary baseball that he can make a big impact for our team on the mound. I know it meant a lot to him, especially considering the fact that he did not get to play last spring. He has been waiting about 2 years to prove that he can pitch at that level, so I know Friday’s game meant a lot to Lance. I asked Lance what the game meant to him, and he replied, “I went out and performed the best that I know how. My high school pitching coach, Terry Matthews, passed away Friday. He played a very important role in my personal life and baseball career. He played 13 years in the Major Leagues and I knew he was there helping me pitch on Friday. I am glad I was given the opportunity to continue my baseball career at Centenary and fight for my dream”.

We came out on Saturday ready to play 2 games against McMurry. We knew the series was far from over, because the series could be won or lost on Saturday regardless of the outcome of Friday night’s game. The first game would be a 7 inning game, followed by a 9 inning game in the nightcap of the doubleheader. The first game on Saturday started out awesome, as Chase Clarke threw a scoreless first inning. We proceeded to load the bases with no outs in the bottom half of the inning. However, we were only able to scratch out 1 run. We knew we needed to score more than 1, but nobody knew we would not score again until the 6th inning. It just goes to show that we really need to capitalize when opposing pitchers walk hitters and give us free base runners. McMurry scored 1 in the 3rd inning, and the score was 1-1 going into the 5th inning. In the top of the 5th, McMurry loaded the bases with no outs. At this point, freshman Peyton Stover was on the mound for us. He induced a sharply hit ground ball to 3rd base, which Marc Martinez did a great job of “bodying up” on. By “bodying up” the ball, I mean he basically sacrificed his body and allowed the hard hit ball to bounce off him so that he could make a play. He picked the ball up, and threw the runner out at home. With 1 out and the bases still loaded, we called on freshman lefty Taylor Henry to get us out of the jam. On his first pitch, he induced a 4-6-3 double play ball to allow us to escape the inning unscathed. Like I said last week, some of our freshman pitchers are growing up fast by being thrown into big situations. Unfortunately, McMurry executed a suicide squeeze in the top of the 6th to take a 2-1 lead. In the bottom of the 6th, our bats woke up as Kyle Morton led off the inning with a double, Jeff Schaffert walked, and then Jemari James moved the runners over with his second successful sacrifice bunt of the game. A strikeout brought Craig Littleman to the plate with 2 outs and runners at second and third. He smacked a single into centerfield, scoring 2 runs to put us ahead 3-2. However, McMurry once again proved that they would not go away easily as they tied the game at 3 in the top of the 7th. Matt Creamer singled with 1 out to start our rally in the bottom of the 7th, then Ryan Gasporra doubled which put runners on second and third. Tyler Clakley came up big once again; driving a pitch off the wall in centerfield and providing us with a walk-off 4-3 win. Unlike our previous series against Trinity, we battled back and finished strong. I know we didn’t play great the first 6 innings, but great teams always find a way to win in the end. At the plate, Matt Creamer led us with 2 hits, while Jemari James played a key role by laying down 2 sacrifice bunts. On the mound, freshmen Chase Clarke, Peyton Stover, and Taylor Henry used a combined effort to keep us in the game.

We took the momentum from the first game of the doubleheader and carried it right over to game 2. I started on the mound for us. My goal was to do whatever I possibly could to help our team earn a series sweep. The top of the 1st was a little slippery as an error allowed McMurry to place runners at 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs. However, I struck out the batter to end the inning. After the game, coach Stephens pointed out that this was a key point in the game because I pitched over the mistake by our defense. He said that sometimes a pitcher has to “pick up” his defense because they pick up the pitchers a lot with their great defense and potent bats. Matt Creamer started off the bottom of the 1st with a walk, and Ryan Gasporra quickly made his way to first base after a hit by pitch. Kyle Morton made the pitcher pay for his mistakes, by launching a 3 run homer to deep right center. We tacked on 4 more runs in the second inning, highlighted by a Tyler Clakley 3 run bomb to right field. Ryan Gasporra also blasted a home run in the 4th inning. In fact, our offense brought the big boy bats for game 3 of the series as they scored in every single inning. After 5 innings, the score was 10-2 in our favor. We tacked on 5 more runs in the bottom of the 6th and eventually won after 7 innings via the mercy rule, 15-2. I finished the game with 10 strikeouts, while pitching all 7 innings. I will say that pitching is a lot easier when you know that your offense is going to put up big numbers for you like that. It allowed me to really attack the hitters and pound the strike zone. I also had some great defense behind me, as a Jeff Schaffert to Matt Creamer to Ryan Gasporra relay system nailed a runner at home as he tried to score on a ball hit to left field. One thing that stood out to me about the final game of the series was that every single one of our starters recorded a hit. Marc Martinez went 2 for 4 with 2 doubles and 3 RBI, while Nic Parrott went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI as well. Matt Creamer and Jemari James also had doubles, while Gasporra, Clakley, and Morton all had home runs. Also, freshman Christian Sebastien made his Centenary debut and contributed with a hard hit groundball for an RBI.

Overall, I was happy with the series. We started off conference play with a sweep, and our bats really came alive in the final game. McMurry is historically a very good team in the ASC, so I think we started out on a good note. However, next week we travel to Abilene to take on Hardin-Simmons. They were selected to finish 2nd on their side of the conference in the pre-season poll, so we know we can’t take them lightly. Also, we have a home game next Tuesday against Divison 1 Louisiana Tech. It is our only home game against a D1 opponent this season, so I hope we get a great turnout. Stop by next week to hear about our trek into West Texas as we take on Hardin-Simmons. Thanks to everyone who came out this weekend to support us! Go Gents!

Week 3: Riverside Spring Classic

This past weekend, our club traveled to a small town called Williamston, NC to play in the Riverside Spring Classic. The event is named after Riverside High School, the host of the tournament. Again, the weather was wild this weekend as 30+ MPH winds and rain pummeled the area all day Friday (wind blowing out). Saturday’s temperatures were windy and cold (wind blowing in) and, finally, Sunday was brisk, but absolutely beautiful.

Even though it did rain on Friday, we were one of the few facilities that were able to sustain play in Eastern North Carolina, completing two of the three scheduled games in the tournament. Seton Hill played a wild one with LeMoyne in game one as both teams combined for an NCAA Division II second best 13 homeruns in one game. Seton Hill eventually won the game 17-16.

On Saturday, four gamers were played. Seton Hill beat Davis and Elkins 11-6, LeMoyne dropped Glennville 19-2, we topped Fairmont State 4-1 and also beat Glenville State 8-1 in the night cap. The first pitch of the day was thrown at 12 PM and the last pitch at 1:45 AM. (Due to the downpours on Friday night, the field was unplayable until noon.)

On Sunday, all was back on schedule with LeMoyne beating D&E 4-0 in the early game at 10 AM and Seton Hill beating us 9-2 during the 2 PM game. Glenville State and Fairmont State were playing the nightcap as I typed this.

Overall, this weekend was very enjoyable. We might not have come away with three wins like we had hoped for—and its not that we don’t care about winning. However, winning is not always the end all when it comes to the success of a weekend. I was again impressed with how the community of Williamston and most of all, Hank Tise, the Head Baseball Coach at Riverside, took care of each and everyone of the teams and individuals that traveled to their quaint town on the Coastal Plain. Coach Tise’s staff, his team parents and their families did an outstanding job preparing the field and food for all the teams. Through all of the poor weather and schedule changes, Coach Tise’s crew was fantastic. We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend in Williamston and can’t wait to come back in 2013!
As far as our club goes… humility is a beautiful thing. This weekend and last taught us a lot about who we are and what we need to do to get better. Again, it is interesting to see how we respond to the “bulls eye effect.” We, as a coaching staff and a team face challenges that we have not had to deal with before. Other clubs show up and play with intensity and energy every game. Because others say we should be good, other teams turn up the energy level when they play us. It is exactly where we want to be as a program for the long haul. If we continue to play well for year’s to come, then this will become the norm. For us now, it’s a slightly different feeling. It’s early and I am still very confident in our pitching, defense and offense. But, there is no doubt that our club’s ability to react to days like today will eventually lead to success or demise. One thing that we continue to work on with our club is that only the present and the process matters. I can’t wait until Tuesday afternoon to get back on the field for practice. Coach K always says that games are checkpoints in progress and I have to agree. Today’s checkpoint was exactly what our club needed. How will we respond? Stay tuned…

Thanks for reading,

Jon Shehan
Head Baseball Coach
Millersville University

IUP at Chowan

Let the games begin !  The 2012 season is upon us.  We open Saturday at Chowan University in Murfreesboro, North Carolina.  Chowan is a member of the CIAA and NCAA Atlantic Region.

Due to the mild winter, we have been fortunate to be outside on the football field turf numerous times and on our baseball field twice.  Each pitcher was able to get on the dirt mounds, position players full team defense / on-field batting practice.

IUP pitching rotation and line-up:

Saturday, game 1 Greg Stewart, game 2 Stephen Cooke.
Sunday game 1 Craig Hibell, game 2 TBA.

SS Robbie Zinsmeister
3B Mike Lupia
DH Troy Foster
1B Dylan Songer
C Aaron Lupia
LF Brett Quiggle
RF Matt Szukics
2B Austin Mock
CF Cory Sawka

“WINwithCLASS”

Jeff Ditch
IUP Baseball
www.winwithclass.com

 

Rating React – Week 1

Over the past five years, we’ve had our own DI baseball rankings, which frankly I thought were pretty kickass.  Not only did we position teams from 1-30, but also provided a brief synopsis of what the teams did the week before to help explain the method of our madness.

The reason why they were good is because a lot of time was spent on them.  A lot of time. While we were proud of the rankings, they were, in actuality, not that different than other publications positioning. There isn’t that much of a difference between the eighth ranked team and the fifteenth. Everyone had pretty much, more or less the same analysis.

This season there will not be weekly DI rankings updates.  Every year there are like two more groups posting their rankings and they all are nearly equivalent.  I like to think they were just looking at our rankings and moving a couple of schools around to be sneaky since our rankings were always the first to be published.

This year instead College Baseball Lineup will have a weekly “Rating Reaction”.  Like last year we’ll still give a quick account of what happened the previous weekend, but instead will let the collective brainpower of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association position the clubs.  IMHO they have the best rankings of anyone out there.  The group as a whole seems to cancel out regional biases and I think NCBWA puts time into the rankings and isn’t doing them all willy-nilly.

Here’s week one’s Ratings Raction:

With a loss to #19 Cal State Fullerton, I was extremely worried that #1 Florida would drop out of the top position.  I was glad to see UF still at number one. As the unanimous preseason number one with seven All Americans on the roster, it would have been bonkers to drop them just because they didn’t sweep the Titans.  The Gators are still the favorite to return to the CWS Finals and my confidence in Kevin O’Sullivan’s prospect laden team is has not waned. Besides, the lost to one of the best teams in the country.  The Titians maybe not top ten, but certainly deserving of the being in the top 25.  Nonetheless, even if it was a middle of the road team likeLong BeachState or Texas Tech, I’d still keep UF at number one.  No one thought the Gators were going to win every game.  We’re taking baseball homie, and no one goes undefeated. The Gators will reach double digit losses sometime this season.  Until theFlorida loses games consistently they’ll be my choice to win the title.

#2 South Carolina and #4 Texas A&M are still my personal choices as the number two and three teams in the country.  The Gamecocks were tested by VMI with two one-run wins before winning the finale going away. The Aggies had four easy wins over UIC (Don’t call them Illinois-Chicago! They’ll stick ya.).

It would be tempting to move #3 Stanford into the top three with their impressive sweep of #16 Vanderbilt, but when you’re considering the top five teams you’re really splitting hairs anyway.  Vanderbilt is projected to be a great team, they aren’t quite there yet and need their pitching to develop.  Plus they had to fly across the country to play Stanford in their own backyard, but that’s not an excuse. VU should have played better as the games weren’t even close. I’m not gonna sock the ‘Dores too much for losses to a team stacked with future professional stars.

#5 Arkansas seems a little overrated in the top five.  Ok with them as a top ten.  Absolutely content with them as a top 15. They should smoke Valpo like Snoop does blunts this weekend.

#6 UNC won two of three over Xavier.  The wins were lopsided but so was the loss.  Not stressing over that. Musketeers ain’t no daisies.

#7 Rice’s series sweep over Florida International was legit.  The Owls are a good club as is Dallas Baptist who the Owls play this week.

#8 Florida State rolled over Hofstra, #9 Texas won two of three over Duke and #10 LSU crushed Air Force and Alcorn St like my sixth grade girlfriend did when she said she wanted to explore her options when we graduated to middle school.

Perennial dark horse favorite Kent State spoiled #11 Georgia Tech’s opening weekend, but the Wreck did win a rematch as well as two over Winthrop.

 With no postseason due to sanctions, it would be understandable if #12 Arizona St sleepwalked through the season.  However the Sun Devils did more scoring than a teenage coming of age raunchy comedy, blastingWestern Michigan 40-2 in three games.

#13 Miami swept Rutgers, #14 TCU split two with #28 Ole Miss and #15 Clemson won two of three over UAB. None of those were particularly interesting. It would have be nice to see the Frogs fit in a third game against the Rebels which was one of the best matchups of the first week. Curse you weather!

#17 Georgia swept Presbyterian. I think the Dogs are bit overrated, but not to the point where I’d debate it.  UGA won’t be tested for a couple weeks when the play #27 UCLA which could be a statement game for either club. The sans Garrett Cole/Trevor Bauer Bruins had one of the most discouraging first weeks, losing two of three to Maryland at home.

#18 Arizona dropped an opening weekend game at home toNorth DakotaState. That. Is. Not. Acceptable. I had the Wildcats pegged at the #11 position to start the season. Despite losing to the Bison, UA didn’t drop a spot in the rankings. Yeah, it’s early, but still,Arizona teams should be losing to teams that borderCanada to start the season.

#20 Oregon State won three of four at UC Santa Barbara, #21 UC Irvine had unimpressive wins overAlabama St, Southern University andTexas Southern.

The first ranked team to lose a series to an unranked team (Pepperdine) was #22 Oklahoma.  I want to root for the Sooners because a lot of the team has some fun-to-follow Twitters feeds so I like the guys, but I’ve got a bad feeling about OU for some reason.  I hope I’m wrong.

#23 Cal swept Pacific.  I think the Golden Bears are very underrated which is weird because all of last season I thought they were grossly overrated. I may like them more than Stanford in the Pac 12.  I think experience goes a long way.

#24 UCF is one of the teams du jour this season. I like the Knights, but not as a top twenty-five team – at least not yet. They swept LIU Brooklyn to start the season and should be better gauged this week with a road game atFlorida and a home series withBostonCollege.

#25 Louisville is another club I’m not partial to.  The Cardinals lost some big weapons after the last season and I’m probably wrong, but if I’m not mistaken, they don’t have a single player back on this year’s club who batted over .250 last year.  Not sure what U of L is doing in the rankings.

#26 Virginia lost toBostonCollege, defeated Coastal Carolina and tied (yes, tied) James Madison. Not very impressive at all, but not expecting much from the Cavs this season so cool with them being where they are at.

#29 Baylor swept Oral Roberts. Meh.

Lastly, #30 Southern Miss won two of three overNichollsState. They only dropped one spot in the rankings.  Should have been more.  Shouldn’t have been there at all.

Week 3 Success, Tough Series Ahead

The third week of the season saw us head down to Cal Poly Pomona, nationally ranked in every collegiate poll and the #1 team in the West Region. It was a hard fought series that saw us splitting with the broncos. In this grueling conference schedule a road split is usually considered a success, but going through the series we feel like we should have came home with 3 wins. We also reached another milestone during the week, being ranked 5th in the West Region by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association for the first time in school history. We also received several votes for the top 25 in the nation, so we are slowly creeping into the national spotlight. We know we belong there, but we are committed to the grind of proving it.

Game 1 of the CPP series was a hard fought and extremely even contest that was not decided until the bottom of the ninth. Don Medlinger put up another strong start, going 6 innings and only surrendering 1 run. He was relieved by Chris Neifert, who again looked great on the hill. The story of the game was not being able to get the big 2 out hit, which CPP did in the bottom of the ninth to take the game 3-2.

Saturday saw a turn of fortune, as we swept the doubleheader. The story of the first game was the pitching performance of senior Aaron Appino. Battling shoulder soreness earlier in the week, Aaron was not even on our original travel roster. He pleaded his case and went out and backed it up, pitching 8 innings and only surrendering 2 hits. For his efforts, Appino was named CCAA Pitcher of the Week and West Region Pitcher of the Week. Jason Merjano, Chris Lopiccolo, and Jesse White all had multiple hit games in the win. The second game of the doubleheader was more of the same, as another dominant performance led to another 5-1 win. Jordan Helmkamp got the win in relief, tossing 3 2/3  perfect innings in relief of starter Steven Farnworth. Danny Nelson, Brian Haggett, and Jeff Phillips paced the efficient offensive attack.

Sunday didn’t give us the same fortune as we went for the road series win. CPP jumped out to an early lead and we weren’t able to make up the difference. The road trip was still considered a success, as it is extremely difficult to win on the road in this conference. The road will no doubt be the key to our success this year, as we still have road trips to powers UC San Diego, Chico State, and Sonoma State. We are embracing the challenge of the road and we know it will be the reason we thrive this season.

We wrapped up out of conference play with a Tuesday home game versus Fresno Pacific. Jonas Noack took the hill for his first collegiate start, and he was dominant in picking up the win. Noack threw 4 innings, allowing only 1 run while striking out 6 and recording 0 walks. He was relieved with perfect work by Jake Crose and Dylan Auker, with Auker picking up his first save of the year. Freshman catcher Garrett Gemgnani made his first start behind the plate, and proved to be the hitting star of the game, coming up with a clutch bases loaded double to give us all the support we needed.

The dynamics of the CCAA schedule never let up, as we host Cal State San Bernardino at the Otter Baseball Complex. The Coyotes split with Sonoma State to open up CCAA play, so the series provides us with a great early season test. We value the way we play on our home field, so we aim for a big series win going into our bye week next week. Come out and support our boys, with Friday’s game starting at 2:00pm, Saturday’s doubleheader beginning at 11am, and Sunday’s finale kicking off at 11am. Go Otters!

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.

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